Example Of Future Of Human Societies Literature Review
Two of the most thought-provoking short stories that predict the future of human societies are Ursula Le Guin's ‘The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas’ and Kurt Vonnegut's ‘Harrison Bergeron.’ Le Guin's ‘The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas’ is a story about a city called Omela. Omela is a city like no other where its citizens enjoy a prosperous and happy life. However, the happiness and prosperity that the city enjoys is at the expense of a child who must be left to suffer for the sake of the city. The story does not offer in detail why a child must suffer for the sake of the city’s prosperity but as the author puts it, “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 this child's abominable misery”. On the other hand, Kurt Vonnegut's ‘Harrison Bergeron’ tells about a futuristic society set in the year 2081. In this society, everyone is equal in the strictest sense of the word. But then not all of the city’s citizens are equal in intelligence and physique and so to maintain the notion of equality, some people who excel more than the average is handicapped; the purpose of which is to limit their abilities and for them not to compete with each other. But then Harrison Bergeron is a rebel who braved the system. In a display of utter disregard for the rules that were imposed in his society, Bergeron styled himself as the king while another woman, a ballerina, also rebelled and joined Bergeron to be his queen. And yet their rebellion was short lived since it was suppressed when they were killed while exhibiting their unique capabilities in the dance floor.
Just like ‘The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas,’ Kurt Vonnegut's ‘Harrison Bergeron’ speculates on the common aspirations of people in today’s society. Both stories talks about what will happen to society if the idealistic philosophy of people today would eventually become a reality. In ‘The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas,’ for example, people seem to experience the prosperity and happiness that everyone today desires. Similarly, in ‘Harrison Bergeron,’ equality, which is passionately sought in today’s society, is already happening in Bergeron’s society. Each society has, therefore, achieved what today’s society is trying to achieve and yet something is terribly wrong. In Omelas, for example, the happiness and prosperity is enjoyed at the expense of an individual; so much worse because it is taken at the expense of a child. However, the child used by the author here could be symbolic. Perhaps the author would like to imply that Omelas’ society is enjoying its prosperity at the expense of the innocent minority, which could have been represented by the child in this story. On the other hand, Bergeron’s society has achieved the level of equality that most people are trying to achieve today. Ironically, Bergeron’s society has somehow become a prison instead of a Utopia as what idealist today expects it to be.
It is also worth noting that in both societies, people began to realize the irony and hypocrisy, which eventually led some of them to challenge or deviate from the system. In ‘The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas,’ some people who deviate choose to discreetly walk away from the city and never to return. In this part of the story, the author seems to give justice to what he thinks would eventually happen given the circumstances. Most people in the city have no intention of leaving the good life. And though they feel the guilt and moral crookedness of their customs, they are not ready to place their comforts at risk for the sake of some minority. As to why people go out discreetly is also of interesting nature. It seems that no one is brave enough to confront the people of Omelas and tell them about what they ought to do or perhaps tell them what’s on their mind. Instead, the people who brave the odds choose to quietly walk away from the city. So instead of facing the problem, it can be ultimately deduced that these people choose to escape it. On the other hand, in ‘Harrison Bergeron,’ the protagonists Bergeron choose to confront the system in a rebellious manner. Unlike in Omelas where the enlightened people choose to leave or somehow escape the system quietly, Bergeron’s way is more violent. Both stories can also be said as politically inclined although ‘Harrison Bergeron’ is more political in theme than Omelas. In ‘The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas,’ for example, the political theme of the story is more on keeping the society’s status quo while in ‘Harrison Bergeron,’ the political theme is more on social control. It is quite evident that the society of Bergeron is dictatorial or authoritative as it seems that all elements of social freedom have been curtailed. Bergeron is, therefore, living in a society where everything is engineered to achieve their political goals.
While both stories are imaginary as much as it is fictional, it mocks the ideology that most activists today are passionately fighting for. In ‘The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas,’ the reader begins to contemplate how extreme, with regards to moral degradation, society is willing to compromise in order to gain happiness and prosperity. On the other hand, Kurt Vonnegut's ‘Harrison Bergeron’ raises the question of how far individuals can curtail their freedom for the sake of equality. The stories seem to imply that in order to achieve something, another thing would have to be sacrificed. In contrast, the uncertainty that idealistic ideology would bring can be more disastrous rather than advantageous. While society is facing known social evils of the present such as poverty and inequality, it has already learned to deal and live under these circumstances but the outcome of ideally desirable things is still unknown.
LeGuin, U. The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas. n.d. March 2015 <http://engl210-deykute.wikispaces.umb.edu/file/view/omelas.pdf>.
Vonnegut, K. HARRISON BERGERON. 1961. February 2015 <http://www.tnellen.com/westside/harrison.pdf>.