In "The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas" is this society utopia or dystopia and why?

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The classic story "The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas" by Ursula K. Le Guin begins with an elaborate description of the Festival of Summer in a seemingly-idyllic bright-towered city by the sea. The people are joyous, and they have no need of overbearing rulers, weapons, or slaves. Le Guin...

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The classic story "The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas" by Ursula K. Le Guin begins with an elaborate description of the Festival of Summer in a seemingly-idyllic bright-towered city by the sea. The people are joyous, and they have no need of overbearing rulers, weapons, or slaves. Le Guin writes: "Omelas sounds in my words like a city in a fairy tale, long ago and far away, once upon a time." She invites readers to imagine additions to her description that would make it more wonderful and magnificent. People can take drugs and alcohol if they want, but the nature of the city makes these things all but unnecessary.

However, there is a dark side to this. All is not perfection. Every adult citizen of the city knows that in the basement of a public building is a young child who is kept under abysmal conditions: naked, lonely, ill-fed, and filthy. Some come to see it and some don't, but everyone realizes that the perfection above is dependent on the captivity and torture of this one individual. The ones who walk away are those who cannot accept this cruel paradox.

Now let's define "utopia" and "dystopia." According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, the primary definition of "utopia" is: "A place of ideal perfection, especially in laws, government, and social conditions." A "dystopia" is defined as: "An imagined world or society in which people lead wretched, dehumanized, fearful lives."

According to these definitions, although Omelas appears ideal and wonderful on the surface, it is certainly no utopia. There is no perfection in a society founded upon torture. Omelas is definitely a dystopia. If even one of its citizens leads a wretched, horrible life, that is a reflection on the entire city. Additionally, you can't help but think that the citizens who appear to be perfect, beautiful, and happy on the surface must be tortured by their consciences, knowing that their happiness is dependent upon the mistreatment of a young and innocent child.

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The society described in this story is neither a utopia nor a dystopia.  In a utopia, as it is classically defined, everything is perfect.  Obviously, not everything is perfect in Omelas.  There is a child suffering in the most horrible conditions we can imagine, and this child suffers as a result of the desire of the rest of the community to remain without problem or care.  If Omelas were a utopia, it is doubtful that people would walk away from it; who would want, after all, to leave a place that is perfect?

On the other hand, in a dystopia, everything is unpleasant or bad, and not everything is unpleasant or bad in Omelas.  In fact, there is much that is good.  Utopias and dystopias are all or nothing -- either everything is bliss or everything is nightmare.  Since Omelas is neither, it cannot be either.

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The story is a dystopia because it describes a supposedly perfect world that is really not perfect, and hides a terrible secret.

The difference between a dystopia and a utopia is whether or not the author expects the world to be perfect.  In a utopia, the author is describing a wonderful world that is perfect.  In a dystopia, the author is writing a cautionary tale.  The story is allegorical.  In this case, the people have a perfect world, but they keep a child locked in the closet.

It could be a boy or a girl. It looks about six, but actually is nearly ten. It is feeble-minded. Perhaps it was born defective, or perhaps it has become imbecile through fear, malnutrition, and neglect.

The child is there so that everyone else can be happy.  When children are older, they find out about the child.  They have the opportunity to stay and be a part of it or walk away.  Many walk away, disgusted, and never come back.  These that walk away are not more righteous though.  After all, they never come back to protect the child.

The moral of the story is that something has to give.  If you want perfection, there are consequences and side effects.

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