Explain the significance of the impact that the tormented child  has on the citizens in "The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas."

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I think that the impact the child has on the citizens of Omelas becomes one of the defining elements of participation in the community.  In the end, the fundamental reaction that the citizens have to the tormented child determines if they remain in Omelas or walk away from it.  If the citizens are content with their happiness coming at the cost of the child, they can remain in the community.  Their participation in Omelas and the joy that comes from it is one that they can rationalize at having come at the cost of the child's suffering and state of torment.  Essentially, if the citizens of Omelas cannot accept that their happiness comes at the cost of the child's pain and suffering, they leave it.  This is significant because it shows in clear terms how remaining in the community is something that must be understood based on the reactions one has to the child.  It is here where I think that the role that the tormented child plays and its impact on the citizens bears importance.  Participation in the community is directly related to how its citizens perceive the suffering of the child as something that they find acceptable or something that is deemed unacceptable.

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The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas

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