The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas Literary Devices Lesson Plan
- Release Date: July 22, 2019
- Subjects: Language Arts and Literature
- Age Levels: Grade 10, Grade 11, Grade 12, and Grade 9
- Pages: 20
Scenic Contrast Created Through Diction:
This lesson plan focuses on Le Guin's use of diction in creating contrasting scenes in the story. Students will examine two passages from the text, interpret connotations of key words in the passages, and describe the atmosphere and mood created in each passage through the author’s choice of words. In analyzing diction and interpreting contrasting scenes in the text, students will be better able to describe themes in the story.
By the end of this lesson, students will be able to
- define and explain diction, denotation, connotation, atmosphere, and mood as they relate to language and literature;
- identify the connotations of key words in two text passages and describe the contrast in atmosphere and mood created by the author’s diction;
- draw themes from the text suggested by scenic contrast.
Skills: close reading; analysis; contrasting; interpreting connotative language; drawing inferences from text
Common Core Standards: RL.9-10.1; RL.9-10.2; RL.9-10.4; RL.9-10.5
Few who read “The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas” forget its shocking and disturbing conclusion. A fantasy set in no specific time or place, the story describes the beautiful seaside town of Omelas, where people live in comfort, security, peace, and never-ending happiness. The narrative then takes an unexpected dark turn, revealing that the utopian life in Omelas exists only because its citizens collectively commit a horrific atrocity upon a helpless child. Each member of society is thus confronted with a personal decision: to continue enjoying a perfect life by consenting to the abuse of the child—or to leave Omelas.
Ursula K. Le Guin was already a celebrated writer in 1973 when “The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas” was first published in the magazine New Dimensions. Her novels, The Left Hand of Darkness and The Dispossessed, had been published to critical acclaim, and she had been recognized as a unique voice within the science fiction and fantasy genres. Le Guin referred to “The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas” as a “psychomyth”—a term she coined to describe a narrative that features settings and events outside of spatial and temporal specifics and that examines human relationships.
The universal question that Le Guin examines in “The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas” was originally put forward by 19th-century American psychologist and philosopher William James: would the happiness of a whole society justify the suffering of one person? Le Guin explores this question by contrasting the joys of the people of Omelas with the suffering of one child, isolated, imprisoned, and tortured for life in a dark, filthy room. The story expands on this inquiry, as well. What is the value of a single life? How and why do humans attempt to justify immoral acts? Are cruelty and injustice acceptable in the pursuit of what society deems a greater good? Readers can infer a deeper, more personal question: given the circumstances in the fantasy, would you be among those who walk away from Omelas?
The tale is related by an unidentified narrator who remains personally detached from the society of Omelas. Speaking directly to readers, the narrator draws them personally into the premise of the fantasy: living in complete and unending happiness. The narrator’s tone is sometimes cynical regarding human nature but generally objective in establishing the facts in the story. However, in describing a sunny summer festival in Omelas and contrasting it with a vivid description of the child’s dark, tragic existence, the narrator employs language that is rich in connotative meaning. Through the stark scenic contrast, readers are led to an unsettling confrontation with the story’s major themes.
Our eNotes Lesson Plans have been developed to meet the demanding needs of today’s educational environment. Each lesson incorporates collaborative activities with textual analysis, targeting on discrete learning objectives. We've aligned all of these lessons to particular Common Core standards, and we list the specific standard met by each lesson. The main components of each plan include the following:
- An introduction to the text
- A step-by-step guide to lesson procedure
- Previous and following lesson synopses for preparation and extension ideas
- A collection of handouts and worksheets complete with answer keys