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For paper, we are reading Ursula Le Guin’s “The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas” and some of the scholarly articles which form a conversation around this story. Your goal with this essay is to identify a specific opportunity for conversation in this set of texts and develop an original and interesting claim (likely in response to a question emerging from your sense of the opportunity for conversation). Remember that an opportunity for conversation can be a gap, tension, contradiction, ambiguity, or difficulty in the texts or the subject of the text. 

Your paper should not regurgitate what has already been said in the scholarly articles; rather, you should start this essay much in the same way you began essay one. Begin with a complex question about either “The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas” or something that you notice within one of our sources. Your answer to this question should function as your claim, or thesis statement, for the essay.

Your evidence is limited to Le Guin’s story, and the scholarly sources we read in class. Use “The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas” and at least two of the approved scholarly essays in your final paper.

Final papers must be formatted according to MLA guidelines:

Times New Roman, 12 pt. font;
1” margins around;
A creative title that intrigues readers and reflects your paper topic;
Works cited sheet.

I uploaded the approved scholarly essays


America’s Impoverished, Racially Segregated, and Incarcerated Citizen is the New “Forgotten Child” in Ursula K. Le Guin’s “The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas”

The story “The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas” not only offers an excellent allegory of today’s affluent societies that live in opulence at the expense of their poor counterparts, it also draws attention to the tendency by the people of these advanced societies to walk away from this reality. If the people stay in Omelas, they are confronted by the sad reality that their comfort comes at the expense of the suffering of one child. However, leaving does not solve the ethical contradiction. Critics have likened the situation in Omelas versus the abandoned child with that of America versus the abandoned Third World (Bennett 65).


I think this interpretation is a diversionary tactic and an attempt to “cleanse” the American conscience. To these critics, it is unimaginable that Americans would do such horrific acts on an innocent American child, much less another American citizen. I am inclined to interpret this story in a different light, in terms of the American society and how it mistreats, even tortures its most vulnerable members in a bizarre manner, in the pretext of promoting prosperity. The immediate reaction to the story is that some people have chosen to stay and do nothing about the forgotten child’s plight. In my view, the real tragedy is that people have been leaving Omelas, and continue to do so, instead of staying and dealing with the sad situation. I foresee a situation where everyone will soon move way away from poor Americans and towards political correctness; At that point, there will be no one to help the disadvantaged in this society.

            To begin with, everyone has the power to transform society. Unfortunately, we all tend to either rationalize the suffering of a few for the benefit of the majority or simply walk away from the plight of the poor. In this story, Ursula K. Le Guin sets out to critique the American moral fabric (Collins 525). A befitting interpretation is that American society is not beyond reproach in terms of the way it treats the most disadvantaged in the community. The first step towards resolving the current dilemma is for political leaders to renounce the continued exploitation of others in order to make possible the current status of the country as a thriving economy.

            Le Guin herself views her work as an allegory of American culture in its contemporary state (Wyman 228). She anticipates that her work may be interpreted from a political perspective it provides many lessons on the use of scapegoats for political expediency. Moreover, child suffering is a common theme in the works of many other writers, including Dostoevsky and Dickens (Langbauer 90). According to Langbauer, these writers display the agony the children are going through as a way of denouncing it (89). Similarly, it may not be wrong to assume that Le Guin’s intention was to draw Americans’ attention to some of the ethical contradictions being perpetrated in the pursuit of prosperity and happiness. As depicted in the story, utilitarian arguments and rationalizations have gained prominence, based on which society justifies atrocious behavior.

Meanwhile, the manner in which Le Guin describes the city of Omelas reflects the view that America has tended to propagate regarding the qualities of its society. Readers are made to see rigging boats in a harbor, majestic streets between houses, great parks and avenues of trees, music playing, and people dancing as a procession moves. The resulting impression is that of a perfect society. This view is reinforced by a description of other aspects of the society in which the people of Omelas live. In this society, there is no monarchy and slavery, secret police, advertisements, and stock exchange. The people of Omelas do not use swords, and they have not yet developed the bomb. In such a society, one would not expect to come across a malnourished child. Unfortunately, not only has a child has been neglected, it has been mistreated and used as a scapegoat for securing happiness for the rest of society. At this point, one is inclined to reflect on many social ills affecting America today, including racial discrimination, high incarceration rates, religious profiling, and police brutality.


The most powerful lesson to be learned from the story is that there is a serious ethical contradiction in contemporary American society. On the one hand, there is a lot of emphasis on equality for all citizens; on the other hand, injustices continue to be propagated against some citizens for the benefit of others. Unfortunately, not everyone would want to adopt this interpretation. This explains the tendency by some critics to argue that Le Guin’s story as an exemplification of America’s affluence versus the Third World’s indigence (Bennett 66). The same kind of rationalization that has been explained in the story is being perpetuated in the way Americans interpret it. For example, those who cannot fathom the idea of a fellow American living in isolation as a scapegoat for social progress may be quick to argue that child fits the description poor children dying of hunger in faraway developing countries that are trying to recover from colonial imperialism. Just as it is wrong to argue that the author supports the noncompliance of those residents of Omelas who choose to walk away, it is equally incorrect to assume that the only valid interpretation of the story’s ethical contradiction is the “developed-versus-developing” country analogy. Before looking at how the American society compares with other societies in terms of existing social inequalities, the best thing would be first and foremost addressing the social inequalities that exist within America.

            One of these inequalities is racial discrimination. Racism has been a major problem in both the early modern and modern American society. The nation takes pride as a model for democracy. This is the image that Americans like to project to the world. They do not like to draw attention to the pressing race problem at home because such a move would trigger an ethical contradiction and make the nation look less prosperous. Successive American administrations like to extend their benevolence to the world by giving foreign aid and reining in on rogue regimes abroad, yet it does not do enough to correct the injustices being perpetrated against its own citizens at home through the perennial race problem. This phenomenon perfectly fits the description of the people of Le Guin; they continue to talk proudly about prosperity that has been achieved by sacrificing the happiness and freedom of one child. The idea that some people must continue suffering for the rest of society to live in happiness and prosperity seems to have taken root in America. If this were not the case, successive administrations would have first and foremost sought to improve the wellbeing of poor citizens before channeling massive resources to expansive economic initiatives abroad. One plausible argument would be that these administrations have been indifferent to the needs of poor American citizens. Alternatively, the situation may be viewed as one of the modern world’s enduring political paradoxes whereby a superpower’s foreign policy objectives must always take precedence over the social wellbeing of a few impoverished individuals at home.

Looking back at the story, it is evident that the people of Omelas have institutionalized the belief that the only way to secure happiness is by neglecting and humiliating one child. Otherwise, the attenuating circumstances that culminated in the child’s present predicament would have been so exceptional as to be worth explaining in the story. In just the same way, many beliefs have been perpetuated in America and presented as a basis for the nation’s progress. For example, in the aftermath of the September 11 attacks, America enacted laws legalizing the profiling people based on suspicion of supporting terrorism. Similarly, the fight against crime has been accorded a racial dimension, such that African Americans are more likely to be arrested and incarcerated than the other racial groups that make up American society. The outcomes of these practices have been horrendous; American jails are dominated by African Americans, many cases where police kill unarmed black citizens on suspicion of criminal intent are on the rise, and hatred against religious minorities such as Muslims is at an all-time high. The situation is not helped by the realization that none of the victims of these social injustices and scapegoating may not bear any personal responsibility for the social ills for which they are being punished. They are merely victims of circumstances in which a society uses scapegoats as a way of reassuring citizens of their security in a cruel, anarchical world. These are just but a few examples of social injustices that are justified by beliefs that closely mirrors the one described in Le Guin’s story. 


Lastly, the political dimension based on which the story should be interpreted is not in doubt (Collins 525). The country’s political leadership has a responsibility to ensure that all citizens are treated equally under the law. When the same leaders become invisible when atrocities are being committed against racial and religious minorities, serious ethical contradictions arise. The situation worsens when these leaders either support the barbaric treatment of some citizens or choose to walk away from their responsibility of promoting equality for all citizens. Like in “The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas” many American leaders are aware of the ethical contradictions but tend to prefer to adopt the two most politically correct choices. The first choice is embracing the injustices. As Le Guin says: “if you cannot lick them, join them.” The second one is walking away.

In conclusion, the best lesson to be learned from Le Guin’s story “The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas” is that the dilemma confronting the American conscience cannot be resolved by citizens’ resolve to walk away from their problems. Rather, they must confront reality and do something to improve the quality of life of the “forgotten child”, however small it may be. Against this backdrop, they must find out what it means to walk away and what it means to confront the situation. Walking away neither clears one’s conscience nor improves the disadvantaged people’s situation. Americans must not only confront the challenges facing their most disadvantaged citizens but also address the origin of those problems.

Works Cited

Bennett, B. “Through Ecofeminist Eyes: Le Guin’s “The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas.” The English Journal, 94.6 (2005): 63-68.

Collins, Jerre. “Leaving Omelas: Questions of Faith and Understanding.” Studies in Short Fiction, 27.4 (1990): 525-535.

Langbauer, Laurie.  “Ethics and Theory: Suffering Children in Dickens, Dostoevsky, and Le Guin.” ELH, 75.1 (2008): 89-108.

Wyman, Sarah. “Reading Through Fictions in Ursula Le Guin’s “The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas.” ANQ: A Quarterly Journal of Short Articles, Notes, and Reviews, 25.4 (2012): 228–232.

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