1. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    Short Story Club (16): The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas by Ursula K. Le Guin

    Discussion in 'Book Discussion' started by thirdwind, Jun 2, 2013.

    For this discussion we'll be reading "The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas" by Ursula K. Le Guin. A PDF of the story can be found here.

    According to Wikipedia, Le Guin is "an American author of novels, children's books, and short stories, mainly in the genres of fantasy and science fiction." Some of the awards she has won include the Hugo Award and the Nebula Award. This particular story was nominated for the Locus Award for Best Short Fiction and won the Hugo Award for Best Short Story.
     
  2. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    This was a great story. When I finished it, I immediately began thinking of what would happen if the child died. Would it be replaced by another one? If there's no replacement, would the happiness of the people gradually disappear? Also, is the child allowed to grow into an adult? The only reason I ask this last question is because I think most people are more sensitive to the suffering of a child than to that of a grown adult. So I don't think a suffering adult would have the same effect as a suffering child (don't get me wrong; I think both cases are horrible).

    Another thing I noticed is how some people try to rationalize the child's captivity by thinking things like "It is too degraded and imbecile to know any real joy." To some of the people, it's not worth saving because it wouldn't be able to enjoy life as much as they do. I also noticed that the child was called "it" and that the gender wasn't revealed to the reader.

    Based on the last paragraph, the people who walk away are in search of a place where they can be happy and where no one has to suffer for their happiness. But this is an impossible task ("a place even less imaginable"). Besides, I don't think a perfect utopia exists. In order to know happiness, one must also know sadness, which is, I think, the reason why all of the people of Omelas are shown the suffering child. If there was no suffering child, this place of happiness would not exist. This works in reverse as well. It is clear that the child knew happiness at one point because it "can remember sunlight and its mother's voice." And it's because it remembers this happiness that it suffers.

    It depends on the point of view. One man's utopia is another man's dystopia. I'd say it's a utopia for everyone except the child and the people who walk away. I think the moral here is that a dystopia is necessary for a utopia (as I said above, sadness is necessary for happiness).

    What would you guys do if you lived in Omelas and saw the suffering child?
     

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