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Possibility for Greatness

In: English and Literature

Submitted By awilliamson
Words 886
Pages 4
In the city of Omelas, between the ages of eight and twelve the children of are taken to see a child which is secluded from the rest of the population and forced to live in harsh conditions. The sight of this child is both shocking and sickening; however, it is known that the secluded child cannot be released into society. By each child in the community being introduced to the child in the basement, they are all forced to be aware of the conditions which the child is living its life in. For the majority of the people of Omelas it is this awareness that is instilled into all of them that helps them make Omelas a seemingly utopian community. Instead of using their awareness of the child’s poor living condition to help it they try to justify its condition with their own actions. On the other hand however, those who choose to walk away from Omelas use their awareness of the child as a reason to leave the community. It is their ethical decision to do the only thing they can to help the child in the basement and that is not be a part of those who keep it there. In a non bias way the text allows you as a reader to observe two different ethical viewpoints on the treatment of the child in the basement, and ultimately make your own ethical decision regarding the issue of the child’s mistreatment. In the beginning of the story the text focuses mainly on the people and the seemingly perfect living conditions of Omelas. The people who live in Omelas believe that their lives depend tremendously on the seclusion and mistreatment of the child in the basement. Some of the citizens understand why the child must be sacrificed, and some do not, “but they all understand that their happiness, the beauty of their city, the tenderness of their friendships, the health of their children, the wisdom of their scholars, the skill of their makers, even the abundance of their harvest and the kindly weathers of their skies depend wholly on the child’s abominable misery” (LeGuin 3). As listed by the narrator, these aspects bear a significance beyond pleasure or happiness. These aspects represent, in fact, well-blended necessities of human existence. If Omelas was to be faced with unhealthy children, lack of food to harvest, and constant poor weather the people would suffer immensely and eventually would be unable to survive. Also, without wise scholars and tender friendships the community as a whole would be unable to peacefully live together and advance their way of life. Through the text LeGuin has narrated that the child’s seclusion is imperative to the survival of the people of Omelas. Beyond just being able to give the people of Omelas the means to live, the community also receives its utopian way of life from the mistreated child. In LeGuin’s short story a reader can identify that the people of Omelas “know compassion” (LeGuin 4) and that their happiness is no “vapid, irresponsible happiness” (LeGuin 4). The community does not take advantage of the fact that their lives depend on this child. To Omelas, the child is actually what encourages them to make their society seemingly perfect. Being aware of the child that is being sacrificed for their survival, gives the people of Omelas great incentive to take advantage of the opportunities for advancement that they have. “It is the existence of the child, and their knowledge of its existence, that makes possible the nobility of their architecture, the poignancy of their music, the profundity of their science” (LeGuin 4). The narrator conveys through the text that the people of Omelas want to give meaning to the sacrificed child beyond just their survival. People can survive without wonderful architecture, beautiful music, or complex science; however it is these types of things that enhance the quality of life and make societies “great”. By taking the opportunities that they are given and advancing the quality of their lives the people of Omelas are giving a meaning to the sacrificed child. Through their actions of advancing their way of life, they are showing that they are not taking for granted that one is suffering for their survival. The people of Omelas give a greater meaning to the child that lives in the basement by making greatness come from its sacrifice. The awareness of the child that is secluded is what gives motivation for the constant advancement of the quality of life in Omelas. This story greatly expressed that although in some cases a sacrifice must be made in order for survival, one can take the knowledge of what is sacrificed for their life, along with all the opportunities and freedoms they are given and make choices to give great significance to what is sacrificed. The secluded child in “The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas” symbolizes the possibility for greatness. The people of Omelas take the opportunities they have to improve and advance their lives so that they can give a meaning to the seclusion and mistreatment of the child in the basement. LeGuin narrates through the text that by the people of Omelas achieving greatness, they are giving a sufficient meaning to the sacrifice of the child.

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