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...
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.