What literary devices are there in "The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas"?

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Polysyndeton refers to using several conjunctions in a row to achieve a dramatic effect. That can be seen in this sentence about the child:

The child used to scream for help at night, and cry a good deal, but now it only makes a kind of whining, "eh-haa, eh-haa," and...

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Polysyndeton refers to using several conjunctions in a row to achieve a dramatic effect. That can be seen in this sentence about the child:

The child used to scream for help at night, and cry a good deal, but now it only makes a kind of whining, "eh-haa, eh-haa," and it speaks less and less often.

Comparing this long string of clauses to the ones above it show a much longer sentence structure. It is at this point that the child is dehumanized, moving from actual speech in the sentences prior to losing the ability to communicate due to lack of human stimulation. Therefore, polysyndeton is used to mimic this loss of semantic control as language devolves in structure as well.

Imagery is used to show the contrasting lives between the citizens of Omelas and the child held captive. Consider the following imagery used to describe the processions:

A marvelous smell of cooking goes forth from the red and blue tents of the provisioners. The faces of small children are amiably sticky; in the benign grey beard of a man a couple of crumbs of rich pastry are entangled. The youths and girls have mounted their horses and are beginning to group around the starting line of the course. An old woman, small, fat, and laughing, is passing out flowers from a basket, and tall young men wear her flowers in their shining hair.

The imagery here connotes a lightness, a carefree existence of friendly faces and hair adorned with flowers. Of course, this carefree lifestyle is only possible because the townspeople are willing to sacrifice one child. Consider the contrasting imagery provided to show the life of this child:

It is feeble-minded. Perhaps it was born defective, or perhaps it has become imbecile through fear, malnutrition, and neglect. It picks its nose and ... sits hunched in the corner farthest from the bucket and the two mops. It is afraid of the mops. It finds them horrible. It shuts its eyes, but it knows the mops are still standing there; and the door is locked; and nobody will come. The door is always locked; and nobody ever comes, except that sometimes—the child has no understanding of time or interval—sometimes the door rattles terribly and opens, and a person, or several people, are there. One of them may come in and kick the child to make it stand up.

These two scenes are juxtaposed with only authorial intrusion (when the narrator steps away from the story and speaks directly to the reader) between them to bring into sharp contrast the startling ways the townspeople are able to live at the expense of the great suffering of one child. The close proximity of these very differing images show the reader both all the people have gained and at what expense they have achieved it.

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Le Guin writes in a poetic style in this short story. In the opening paragraph, as the narrator describes the beauties of Omelas, she uses alliteration to create a sense of rhythm with repeated "p" sounds in the following:

past great parks and public buildings, processions moved.

Throughout the story, she uses similes (comparisons using the words "like" or "as"). For example, she likens the voices of children at the festival in the opening scene to:

high calls rising like the swallows' crossing flights, over the music and the singing

Later she compares nudes to soufflés:

Surely the beautiful nudes can just wander about, offering themselves like divine souffles

The horses are personified when it is said that they:

boasted to one another

Le Guin uses an exclamation as she writes of the people of Omelas as "not wretched. O miracle!" Additionally, the word "wretched" is an example of an archaic term in the context of 1970s American English.

The narrator also steps into the text to directly address the audience, pointing to the fictiveness of the story. The direct address below also uses repetition, a literary device that adds emphasis:

If so, please add an orgy. If an orgy would help, don't hesitate

The poetic diction of the story's description of happiness has a tongue-in-cheek or ironic quality, foreshadowing that the fact that all of this happiness is founded on a horrific crime.

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In the second paragraph, the narrator describes the way we tend to think of happiness as "something rather stupid." We think that pain and evil are more intellectual and more interesting. The narrator says, "This is the treason of the artist: a refusal to admit the banality of evil and the terrible boredom of pain." Thus, the narrator uses a metaphor to compare the tendency of artists and writers to depict pain and suffering rather than happiness as a kind of treason against their fellow human beings.

The narrator employs another metaphor when they say that the citizens of Omelas are "not naive and happy children." The narrator compares these "mature, intelligent, passionate adults" to children—whose happiness is often thought of as the result of their innocence and naivety—to show that the citizens' happiness is more legitimate somehow, that it isn't a default state that results from their ignorance (because they are not, in fact, ignorant).

The narrator uses a simile when they describe the "beautiful nudes"—people that can wander around, offering themselves "like divine souffles to the hunger of the needy." The narrator compares these people to an elegant and often beautiful type of food.

The narrator also uses metonymy when they say that "A boundless and generous contentment . . . is what swells the hearts of the people of Omelas." Now, the citizens' hearts do not actually swell up and get bigger, but rather, the citizens feel emotionally filled up, satisfied, and happy. As hearts are often connected to emotion, they stand in here, figuratively, for those feelings.

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The opening paragraph of this short story has a few good examples of various literary devices. When the story begins, readers are introduced to a large celebration that is happening. It is called the "Festival of Summer." People are gathered and having a great time, and music is playing along with their procession.

Readers are told a great metaphor here. We are told that the "procession was a dance." The very next sentence has a simile that further develops the happy gathering of people. The children's calls rose "like the swallows' crossing flights." A little later in the same paragraph, the author provides readers with some personification of the horses that are in the procession. We are told that they wear minimal gear and have manes braided with streamers. They look amazing, and the horses know it. They flare their nostrils and "boasted to one another." Horses are perfectly capable of flaring their nostrils, however, boasting and bragging is a human trait, so this personification provides a great, concrete image to readers of how the horses are behaving.

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