"The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas" is a short story by Ursula Le Guin that employs the common literary trope of dystopia—an overly idealistic society that has reneged or collapsed on its morals. However, rather than making the dystopian features of the city of Omelas explicit, Le Guin utilizes the concept of the scapegoat to articulate dystopia as something that is often implicit and repressed rather than obvious.
The citizens of Omelas engage in hedonistic rituals that appear to have nothing to hide, and their acceptance of nudity, lack of social hierarchy or private resources, and absence of emotional restraint resemble biblical depictions of the Garden of Eden before the emergence of of "sin." Yet, Le Guin rejects the feasibility of Omelas's utopia in the twisted end of the story, when it is revealed that the keystone preventing the city's social collapse is the repression of suffering, embodied in a child held prisoner in an underground cell and deprived of basic human dignity. The existence of this child is the true crux of the story: the child functions as a scapegoat that rationalizes the darker human impulses of Omelas's citizens. Those who do not renounce this dystopian moralization and walk away from Omelas are all complacent and complicit in the child's suffering.