Is Omelas a true utopia in "The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas" by Ursula Le Guin?

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Omelas is not a true utopia because suffering exists within its community.

Omelas is described as an idyllic community, but the conditions for this happiness are "strict and absolute"; therefore, there are flaws in its perfection. For one thing, the structure of happiness is fashioned by man, who is himself imperfect. Yet, the evil is walled in, so some feel that they are safe in Omelas. Or, they feel that the child who is confined so that they can be happy is "too degraded and imbecile to know any real joy," and he/she cannot be freed, anyway.

Omelas is a town that holds that the greater good is served by having the one miserable being confined.

If the child were brought up into the sunlight out of that vile place, if it were cleaned and fed and comforted, that would be a good thing, indeed; but if it were done, in that day and hour all the prosperity and beauty and delight of Omelas would wither and be destroyed.

Some stay because they accept the concept of the "greater good" on which Omelas is based. Those who cannot accept this miserable being's existence as the condition for the happiness of others must walk away from Omelas. They feel that Omelas is no utopia because there is suffering, and it is selfishness to continue to allow the single person to suffer.  

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The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas

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