Who is considered to be the narrator in "The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas?"

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

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This is a very interesting question.   Simply put, there is little definitive as to the identity of the narrator.  There are some hints that allow for an analysis as to who the narrator could be.  The first element is that the narrator is someone who knows of Omelas quite intimately.  The narrator possesses knowledge and understanding of Omelas' practices as well as the citizens' mindsets.  The narrator fully grasps that there is "no guilt" in Omelas and understands how the town and its people function, in general.  At the same time, the narrator has detailed understanding of the child who remains in the room and whose suffering the people of Omelas' happiness is contingent.  The narrator also understands the condition of those who walk from Omelas.  It is here where the narrator is elusive, not describing these individuals' plight in as much detail or with as much precision as both the town or the child.  This could bring out a couple of thoughts as to the identity of the narrator.  The first would be that the narrator is someone who walked away from Omelas and still wrestles with the implications of such a decision.  Little is known except for agony.  Another thought as to the identity of the narrator could be someone from the outside, such as a social scientist.  The use of suggestions that "we here in the West" is an indication of this.  Another thought would be that LeGuin herself assumes the totality of the narrator in order to fully articulate the agonizing position of choice in which the reader must be placed.  It is here where I think that her role as narrator moves the story from literary work to philosophical study.  In each of these cases, the narrator is designed to give the reader a view of Omelas and, in turn, of themselves.

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