Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Ursula K. LeGuin: "The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas"

Often, philosophical ideas are best communicated through literature or film. In her short story, "The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas," Le Guin offers us a picture of a society structured on utilitarian principles. Here is a synopsis from Wikipedia:

In the story, Omelas is a utopian city of happiness and delight, whose inhabitants are smart and cultured. Everything about Omelas is pleasing, except for the secret of the city: the good fortune of Omelas requires that a single unfortunate child be kept in perpetual filth, darkness and misery, and that all her citizens should be told of this on coming of age.

After being exposed to the truth, most of the people of Omelas are initially shocked and disgusted, but are ultimately able to come to terms with the fact and resolve to live their lives in such a manner as to make the suffering of the unfortunate child worth it.

However, some few of the citizens, young or old, silently walk away from the city, and no one knows where they go. The story ends with "The place they go towards is a place even less imaginable to us than the city of happiness. I cannot describe it at all. It is possible it does not exist. But they seem to know where they are going, the ones who walk away from Omelas."

Read this very short story here . It's worth the five minutes it will take.

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