Type of paper: Essay

Topic: People, Children, Literature, Enlightenment, Human, City, Democracy, Voltaire

Pages: 5

Words: 1375

Published: 2020/12/06

Reconsidering LeGuins’s The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas

‘The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas’ is a beautifully written short story that describes a life in a utopian city: Omelas. The many comforts the residents of this town enjoy solely depend on the intense suffering of a child. This story is like a fairy tale, and it raises moral questions of immense depth that apply to all members of society. The story demands that all people should drop their deep-seated ignorance and carefully examine the sources of their freedoms and comforts (The Centre for Civic Reflection, n.p). The story implores us to be enlightened enough and drop the common belief in our societies that the suffering of others is a necessity for the greater good for the majority.
The critical reading I have used in reconsidering LeGuins’s “The One Who Walk Away From Omelas” is “Enlightenment” authored by Immanuel Kant. The meaning of Enlightenment according to Kant is the action of a man dropping his self-caused immaturity. This immaturity, according top him, is the incapacity of people to use their intelligence but only under the guidance of others (Kant, p. 98). The lack of courage and determination in people to use their intelligence freely and their preference for the guidance of other people in order to, is a reflection of self-inflicted immaturity. Therefore, an enlightened people are those who have developed capacity to use their intelligence without any guidance from others. Kant proposes that the requirement for enlightenment to occur is freedom. Freedom is defined by him to mean the ability of people to use their reasoning publicly in all matters (Kant5, p. 98). Essentially, people are free and hence enlightened if they use their reason in addressing social ills.
This critical reading strengthens my understanding of LeGuins’s short story. In LeGuins’s short story, there is a group of people who get exasperated by the treatment meted at the locked up child. They are the enlightened lot. They profoundly utilize their personal intelligence to question the morality of the practices of the society and the necessity of the injustice meted at the locked up child. Majority of the people of Omelas city understand that their happiness, the tenderness present in their friendships, the beautiful appearance of their city, the good weather their skies affords them, the abundant harvests they get, the good health of their offspring, and the wisdom their scholars espouses are wholly dependent on the abominable misery inflicted on this child (LeGuin, p. 3). This belief is explained to young children aged below twelve years by their parents whenever they indicate they have the capability of understanding. Despite the early guidance given to children about the abominable misery that bring good tidings to the city of Omelas, there are those who go against the grain when they finally graduate from childhood.
Some girls and boys after reaching adolescence, they take time to see the child and ultimately decide to live the city of Omelas. Moreover, there are instances when grown up man or woman fall silent and finally reach a decision to leave the city. These are people who are intensely exasperated by the injustice meted to the child, and they cannot withstand it anymore. They leave the good trappings this abominable misery on the child is assumed to bring good tidings to the city, and slither into unknown environments (LeGuin, p. 4). Their action to walk away from this society paints them as the enlightened lot. Their reasoning lead them the realization that their society is at fault in consistently causing suffering of one person for the greater good of a multitude of others. To reclaim their conscience, they ditch the happiness in their city for an unpredictable life in a far way place.
LeGuins’s story can be expanded and be evaluated in a different political lens. It simple meaning of subjugation of a child for the greater good of the entire society is congruent with many realities in our present lives. The story, at best, addresses the politics of exploitation. Our modern societies are laden with exploitation of a minority for the for the benefit of a majority. The workers who are exploited by being paid poorly in factories that make clothes represent the children in basements. They are overworked and paid poorly so that a majority can get pieces of clothing to use (Brooks, n.p). To some people, such exploitation is goods because it leads to the production of useful products they can buy and use and gain a share of the exploitation.
The story also examines the politics of what humanity is. There are those who believe that a human being is merely an end while others believe that a human being is a means to a particular end. Earlier during the slave trade, those involved in this business felt that they were justified to use human as objects more so a source of labor. The work of the objectified laborers led to successful agriculture on the farms of the slave owners. The slave owners subscribed to the idea that human beings were an end. On the other side of the spectrum, there are those who fiercely defend human dignity and push for the protection of human rights. This group believes that human beings are a means of attaining some things and that they deserve respect and protection of their dignity.
The politics of fair distribution of resources also pervade in this story. The citizens of Omelas live in opulence while the child responsible for the good tidings survives on grease and a half-bowl of corn meal daily (LeGuin, p. 3). The child, despite being the source of their well-being, does not get access to the resources that accrue to the city citizens. This scenario is reminiscent with the majority of poor farmers who contribute immensely to the growth of economies but who reap little from their sweat. The majority of the people who unfairly benefit from their hard work are politicians and middlemen.
Additionally, the politics of morality also implicitly play out in this story. The life of the citizens of Omelas city is full of many tradeoffs. They have chosen the traditional beliefs of their community over the welfare of one of their own. Not even the pleas and cries of this child tone down their cruelty. The child cries out:"I will be good," it says. "Please let me out. I will be good!" (LeGuin, p.3) The people remain adamant and choose to keep their silence. The people are succeeding at the expense of the child. Essentially, they don’t espouse any iota of morality and respect for humanity. This degradation of morality is rampant in our societies, an example being the blanket firing or retrenchment of people by companies without considering the plight of their families. The motive for this is usually blind pursuit of profits at the expense of the welfare of the employees. Another example that addresses the politics of morality and which is in tandem with LeGuins’s story is accidental killing of innocent people under the guise of fighting terror war. Normally, it is deemed that the few innocent people who lose their lives accidentally are victims of circumstances who die for the greater benefit of securing the lives of their lives.
The easiness to evaluate LeGuin differently through particular political lens makes it less difficult to read her through Kant’s Enlightenment. All through the political scenarios that emerge in the short story, there is a clarion call for the enlightenment of people. People or organizations should be free to use their reasoning, and this should not be influenced by the performance of the economy, desires to degrade other human beings and personal desires. All along, there is a necessity for people to get enlightenment so that they can make informed choices that border well with needs of fellow human beings. The blind focus on gaining profits, fighting wars, and general success due the suffering of others behooves the very essence of morals.
In LeGuins’s story, the people who choose to stay in Omelas find it much easier to live alongside the misery they so much depend on (Brooks, n.p). Those who walk away from the immense of Omelas, make a decision that is rather radical. They are the only ones who have been enlightened, and they strongly believe that it is immoral for people to suffer just for the greater good of the majority. These people are better placed pursuing purity of their conscience.

Works Cited

Brooks, David. "The Child in the Basement." The New York Times. The New York Times, 12 Jan. 2015. Web. 3 Mar. 2015. <http://www.nytimes.com/2015/01/13/opinion/david-brooks-the-child-in-the-basement.html?_r=0>.
Center for Civic Reflection. "The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas." Center for Civic Reflection - Community, Leadership, Dialog. 2012. Web. 3 Mar. 2015. <http://civicreflection.org/resources/library/browse/the-ones-who-walk-away-from-omelas>.
Kant, Immanuel. "The Enlightenment." Fairbanksonline.net. Web. 3 Mar. 2015. <http://fairbanksonline.net/Fairbanks_Online/Reading_Assignments_files/Sherman Ch 8 - The Enlightenment.pdf>.
LeGuin, Ursula K. "The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas." Http://www.kareyperkins.com. Web. 3 Mar. 2015. <http://www.kareyperkins.com/classes/445/omelas.pdf>.

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WePapers. (2020, December, 06) Curse Essay. Retrieved June 30, 2022, from https://www.wepapers.com/samples/curse-essay/
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Curse Essay. Free Essay Examples - WePapers.com. https://www.wepapers.com/samples/curse-essay/. Published Dec 06, 2020. Accessed June 30, 2022.

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