illustration of a young boy in a cage in the center with lines connecting the boys cage to images of happy people and flowers

The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas

by Ursula K. Le Guin

Start Free Trial

What is an example of a metaphor in "The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas" and what does it add to the story?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

In Le Guin's story, "The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas," the story itself as a parable is a metaphor.  For, the imaginary world of Omelas as an idyllic community is an unstated comparison of the child as an underclass in capitalistic Western Societies or a third-world country that works and suffers while the wealthy and properous profit from them.

That the society is pragmatic about this situation and agrees to continue its exploitation is evidenced in the reaction that many have when they see the child who suffers:

Their tears at the bitter injustice dry when they begin to perceive the terrible justice of reality, and to accept it.  Yet it is their tears and anger, the trying of their generosity and the acceptance of their helplessness, which are perhaps the true souce of the splendor of their lives.  

This extended metaphor of the community of Omelas, of course, contributes to the theme of moral responsibility where the hapiness of the majority depends upon the misery of a few who are powerless.  And, by leaving the denouement of the story in ambiguity--where are those who leave going and what will happen to them?--Le Guin imposes some moral accountability upon the reader, who can either accept the society or reject it.

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Approved by eNotes Editorial