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The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas

by Ursula K. Le Guin

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What's a good thesis statement for an essay on "The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas"?

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To be able to write a good thesis statement for an essay on "The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas" by Ursula K. Le Guin, it is necessary to have a good grasp of what the short story is about, so let's summarize it briefly.

The story begins with...

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a description of the beginning of the Festival of Summer in the city of Omelas, "bright-towered by the sea." Le Guin describes the lovely boats in the harbor, buildings, streets, and processions full of joyful people. The people are so happy that smiles have become archaic. They have no king, no military, and no slaves. Le Guin invites readers to imagine their own conceptions of happiness and add it to her descriptions. There is great freedom for people to do whatever gives them pleasure, and there is even a mild drug that accentuates the happiness.

However, all of this joy that the people of the city possess comes at a terrible price. Locked away in a basement under one of the public buildings is one small child. This abused child is kept filthy, malnourished, and in fear. Its pleas for help are ignored. At a certain age, everyone in the city comes to know of the existence of this poor child, and they are made aware that their prosperity and happiness somehow depend on this one child's misery. Most of them accept this and go on to live their lives. Some of them, though, refuse to agree to this condition and leave the city, never to return. These are "the ones who walk away from Omelas."

A thesis statement for an essay tells readers what idea the writer is attempting to support. To be able to write a thesis statement for "The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas," you need to consider what the short story means to you and what you want to say in your essay. For instance, you may be horrified by the compromise that those who stay in the city make. In this case, your thesis statement may be something like this: "It is impossible for the citizens of Omelas to be truly happy as long as they know that one child is suffering." On the other hand, you may want to focus on those whose consciences force them to leave the city. Your thesis then might be something like this: "The only moral clarity in the story is expressed by those who choose to walk away." Read the story over carefully and decide what the message is for you personally, and then you should be able to come up with a compelling thesis statement.

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What is a good thesis statement using the terms "happiness," "mood," and "morals" that apply to the story "The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas"?

The society that Ursula K. Le Guin depicts in the story is intended to provide everything that its people need. Those needs are deemed obvious by the society’s rulers, who determine that happiness will be derived from the satisfaction of the needs. This type of logic leaves aside the question of individual preferences and desires. The underlying morality in the society is based on the maximum collective good, which outweighs any individual inconvenience, suffering, or even sacrifice.

A thesis statement incorporating the three terms might address strong connections among the terms, such as identifying which terms are dependent on the others. In contrast, it might point out the lack of connection among any two terms or all three terms. The choice will depend on the reader’s interpretation of the story.

If the reader is convinced that happiness is the dominant mood among the people of Omelas, then the thesis statement could hinge on the way that morals undergird the other two concepts. It might be the case, however, that the reader sees a more somber mood that belies the assertion of the people’s happiness. Is the narrator's claim credible that they feel no guilt? A relevant thesis would emphasize the positive and negative values that people hold—their morals—as reasons that prevent them from constantly enjoying the mood of happiness.

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What is a good thesis statement using the terms "happiness," "mood," and "morals" that apply to the story "The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas"?

The people who live in Omelas enjoy a sense of peace and contentment because they allow one child to suffer as a sort of sacrifice for the pain of the rest of them. Consider the lives of most citizens:

In the silence of the broad green meadows one could hear the music winding through the city streets, farther and nearer and ever approaching, a cheerful faint sweetness of the air that from time to time trembled and gathered together and broke out into the great joyous clanging of the bells.

Joyous! How is one to tell about joy? How describe the citizens of Omelas?

They were not simple folk, you see, though they were happy.

Their lives of joy rest on the suffering of one, set apart and alone from the rest. The environment of this child is a sharply different one, lacking any semblance of joy:

In the room a child is sitting. It could be a boy or a girl. It looks about six, but actually is nearly ten. It is feeble-minded. Perhaps it was born defective, or perhaps it has become imbecile through fear, malnutrition, and neglect. It picks its nose and occasionally fumbles vaguely with its toes or genitals, as it sits hunched in the corner farthest from the bucket and the two mops. It is afraid of the mops... The door is always locked; and nobody ever comes, except that sometimes—the child has no understanding of time or interval—sometimes the door rattles terribly and opens, and a person, or several people, are there. One of them may come in and kick the child to make it stand up. The others never come close, but peer in at it with frightened, disgusted eyes.

I might therefore suggest a thesis statement like this one:

The citizens of Omelas enjoy a false sense of happiness because they willingly allow one child to suffer horrifically, thereby showing that the mood of Omelas is deceptive due to the citizens' lack of morals.

This isn't a happy place. "They all know" that the suffering exists, and some of them choose to visit the child, going so far as to torture the child further. They may be visibly upset at first, showing that they fully realize the injustice of the situation, yet they choose to continue living this way. It is the choice (after a reaction of grief) that most reflects their poor morals. Their sense of happiness is false. The joy is false. And there are a few who realize this and choose to walk right out of Omelas after realizing the truth of their lives. The rest consider the "acceptance of their helplessness" the true "splendor of their lives." The joyous mood of their town, therefore, has an undercurrent of known suffering, and this isn't reflective of people with a strong moralistic community.

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What is a good thesis statement using the terms "happiness," "mood," and "morals" that apply to the story "The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas"?

In LeGuin's "The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas," the narrator seems to feel the need to intrude and offer explanations in the narrative.  For instance, regarding happiness, while the narrator has described the "cheerful faint sweetness of the air" and the "great joyous clanging of the bells," she feels the need to state,

Joyous!  How is one to tell about joy?  How describe the citizens of Omelas?

They were not simple folk, you see, though they were happy.  But we do not say the words of cheer much any more.  All smiles have become archaic.

Later, she exclaims,

O miracle!  but I wish I could describe it [the society] better.  I wish I could convince you...Happiness is based on a just discrimination of what is necessary, what is neither necessary nor destructive, and what is destructive.

This ambiguity of the definition of happiness is also present in the expression of mood and morals.  With reference to mood, the narrator states, "As you like it."  Then, regarding morals, she states,

One thing I know there is none of in Omelas is guilt.

Yet, there are those who walk away from Omelas after they learn of the suffering child.

So---perhaps, your thesis could focus on the ambiguity of any true happiness, real mood, or true morals.  With a narrator intruding in order to convince the reader of things, there are certainly some questions as to the utopian state of Omelas. (By the way, the title means "Man, alas.")  After all, if a narrator must convince the reader, do these qualities really exist? 

Your essay can help the readers decide. 

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