In "The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas" and "The Lottery," discuss the symbolic uses of the scapegoat.

1 Answer | Add Yours

akannan's profile pic

Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

In both stories, the idea of the scapegoat chosen by the community is a powerful argument.  It forms the basis of both stories.  In both stories, the community needs the scapegoat in order for it to survive.  In Jackson's setting, the lottery is needed in order for the community to progress.  It is tied to the development of crops and seen as a tradition that has continued as far back as anyone can remembr.  Old Man Warner speaks to this in his assertion that anyone who attempts to get rid of the lottery is a "damn fool."  The lottery and the subsequent choosing of one person to be targeted is vital to the town's functioning.  In LeGuin's setting, the town's happiness is only possible with the suffering endured by the child.  Here, too, progress is defined with the specific suffering of an individual.  In both settings, tradition is a large part as to why the scapegoating happens.  LeGuin's setting reflects individuals who cannot conceive of a world without the child's misery for their happiness.  Even those who walk away from Omelas do so without doing anything that helps to child be relieved from their pain.  Jackon's setting is much the same in that no one helps Tessie when her name is picked, as even her best friend finds the biggest stone, one she has to carry with two hands.  In the end, both stories reflect a condition of life where the "tyranny of the majority" has reached its zenith.  Finally, I think that both stories depict human cruelty and brutality in a nonchalant manner.  The outrage at the stoning of Tessie and the cruel treatment of the child are only experienced by the reader.  There is a sort of daily acceptance that one lives their lives in the stories with the reality of torment and torture.  Even the ones who walk away do so with the understanding that their actions are only for themselves and not for the stopping of the child's pain.  Both works are pointing to how scapegoating is a natural part of the process of socialization.

We’ve answered 318,945 questions. We can answer yours, too.

Ask a question