Whats are some literary/rhetorical devices in "The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas"?

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accessteacher eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Clearly any given piece of literature is going to employ literary and rhetorical devices as part of their attempt to depict scenes and character, and this text is certainly no exception. In this incredibly rich text, the author asks us to imagine a supposedly perfect world, and then challenges us with its utilitarian manner of achieving that perfection, and asks us whether it is worth it. However, along the way, many literary terms are used in describing the kind of perfection of this city called Omelas. One of my favourites is a simile describing the priests and priestesses ready to "copulate" with anyone as part of their worship of the god of Omelas. Note how they are described:

Surely the beautiful nudes can just wander about, offering themselves like divine soufflés to the hunger of the needy and the rapture of the flesh.

The simile obviously strikes a wryly sardonic note at our need to imagine some kind of orgy to make this city more believable.

Consider too the imagery employed to help us picture the scene of the opening of the Festival of Summer:

A marvellous smell of cooking goes forth from the red and blue tents of the provisioners. The faces of small children amiably sticky; in the benign grey beard of a man a couple of crumbs of rich pastry are entangled... 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. A child of nine or ten sits at the edge of the crowd, alone, playing on a wooden flute.

Note how the author here combines as many of the five senses as possible to bring this scene to life and to help us as readers see, smell, hear, taste and touch the scene that she is bringing to life.

Hopefully these examples will help you to revisit the story yourself and find more literary and rhetorical devices of your own that you can comment on. Good luck!

favoritethings eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The story begins with a great deal of imagery:

With a clamor of bells that set the swallows soaring, the Festival of Summer came to the city Omelas, bright-towered by the sea. The rigging of the boats in harbor sparkled with flags. In the streets between houses with red roofs and painted walls, between old moss-grown gardens and under avenues of trees, past great parks and public buildings, processions moved.

The description of the bells constitutes auditory imagery (images you can hear), and the description of the swallows taking flight, the bright buildings, the sparkling boats, the red roofs, the mossy gardens, the trees, and so on all constitute visual imagery (images you can see). Further, in the first two sentences of the quotation above (the first of the story), slant rhyme is created by the repetition of the "s" sound in bells, set, swallows, soaring, Festival, Summer, city, Omelas, sea, boats, sparkled, and flags. This repetition might remind us of the "shooshing" sound water makes as it comes in waves upon the shore. In this way, then, the author introduces the harbor by sound, even before the narrator describes it in the second sentence. It adds to the positive connotation of these descriptions, helping to establish the mood of the text, making later revelations all the more shocking.

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The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas

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