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The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas

by Ursula K. Le Guin
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Who is the narrator of "The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas"?

The narrator of "The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas" is the person who's created the fictitious city of Omelas. She is the storyteller and is describing a place that isn't real and comes solely from her imagination.

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The city of Omelas and everything in it is clearly fictitious. The narrator makes this perfectly clear as she's telling the story of the people who walk away from this ostensibly paradisaical town.

Omelas is purely a product of her authorial imagination, an indication perhaps that the narrator is virtually...

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The city of Omelas and everything in it is clearly fictitious. The narrator makes this perfectly clear as she's telling the story of the people who walk away from this ostensibly paradisaical town.

Omelas is purely a product of her authorial imagination, an indication perhaps that the narrator is virtually synonymous with the author. That being the case, we are never in any doubt as readers that what we are being introduced to is a fantasy and nothing more.

Yet it's a testament to Le Guin's consummate skill as a writer that such a narrative approach in no way makes the story any less interesting or thought-provoking. The moral fable that Le Guin sets before us invites us to ask ourselves the questions "What would I do in such a situation?" and "Would I stay or go?"

"The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas" may be a fantasy, and a self-conscious fantasy at that—a kind of meta-fantasy, if you will—but it is no less powerful and morally compelling for that.

Far from undercutting the moral message, Le Guin's metafictional approach to the narrative actually serves to make it more important. As there are no real characters in the story, we are better able to imagine ourselves as the characters instead. We can easily envisage ourselves as inhabiting the town of Omelas and thinking of how we may—or may not—be able to live in such a place, knowing as we do the appalling evil on which everyone's happiness is based.

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