Discuss the significance of the quote below from LeGuin's short story, "The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas.""The trouble is that we have a bad habit, encouraged by pendants and sophisticates, of...

Discuss the significance of the quote below from LeGuin's short story, "The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas."

"The trouble is that we have a bad habit, encouraged by pendants and sophisticates, of considering happiness as something rather stupid.This is a treason of the artist: a refusal to admit the banality of evil and the terrible boredom of pain."

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

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Le Guin's quote appears at the point where she is at her zenith in describing the citizens of Omelas.  In articulating the state of happiness that exists in the town, Le Guin breaks off a bit in talking about what it means to speak of the level of happiness that exists in Omelas.  She wants to bring out that the people of the town are not "bumpkins."  They are not some kind of creation from a mythic world.  Rather, they are real and in their reality, happiness exists. In this, Le Guin brings out the idea that the world of Omelas and the modernized world in which we live, predicated upon pleasure, happiness, and self- interest are one in the same.

Le Guin's fundamental argument is that academics and thinkers have done a fairly good job in raising the life of misery and supposed pain to be more intellectually worthy than that of the happy one.  In the selected quote, she contends that the idea of "happiness" has been denigrated to a point whereby individuals feel that it is a sensation to be experienced by "lesser" or people who are inferior.  Le Guin calls this perception "stupid" because of two reasons.  The first is that such an attitude institutionalized and legitimizes the elitism that allows one group to dominate and another to be subservient.  The second is that in carrying such an attitude, an almost romanticism of evil exists.  It is one that refuses to acknowledge that in the most banal and daily of situations, there is evil.  Rather, it is heightened, and the experience of it becomes something that artists and supposed "thinking people" praise.  Le Guin veers into this realm to only bring out to the reader that the "happy" people of Omelas were not some type of "noble savage" or some group that were radically different than us.  It is here where the need to be aware of evil, even in its most banal of forms, often its most dangerous becomes vitally important for both Le Guin's telling of the story and the themes behind it.

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