In "The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas" by Ursula LeGuin, why do the people who walk away from Omelas go alone?

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oblackmon eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Ursula Le Guin's "The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas," the Utopian society that thrives on the sacrifice of a single child is a poignant allegory for many timeless themes in literature such as good and evil or belief in God. One of the most affecting aspects of Le Guin's story, however, is the theme of how one can overlook another man's pain and suffering in the name of materialism. A type of materialism drives the perfection of Omelas, and while some citizens have become affected by the hidden child's suffering, most are oblivious to these negative feelings and instead live "based on a just discrimination of what is necessary, what is neither necessary nor destructive, and what is destructive."

When we look at "Omelas" as a story on materialism (especially when we consider the time period in which it was written), Le Guin seems to be lamenting how the level of work some must put in (e.g. laborers or impoverished societies) to provide the goods and services the privileged have goes unnoticed. It is not that the people of Omelas are too happy to notice the child or even apathetic to his plight—they just know it is necessary and do not think about him. It is as if his suffering is just a way of life, as natural as breathing. This perspective on the perfection of Omelas is why so few walk away: most grown adults have stopped seeing anything wrong with the child's sacrifice ("one thing I know there is none of in Omelas is guilt").

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The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas

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