Theme

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The short story The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas explains a city, a city which is void of sadness, despair, and jealousy. This city portrays true happiness, the kind of which is unimaginable beyond the wildest of dreams. It is elegant, beautiful, yet simple and remarkable. This city is the pinnacle of perfection, nothing is like it. It’s a utopia. But this is not possible, and as it so happens, there is, in fact, something terrible: a child, a sacrifice, forced to live a life… no, not a life, a death. But how can this be? With all this goodness in a city, how can this be justifiable? Maybe it’s a mistake, possibly unknown? No. They all know. Most of them don’t like it, but they know it’s inevitable. Some of them leave, escape. One thing is certain. Nothing is perfect.

There are many other viable themes in this short story, here are a couple;

Good does not exist without evil
This is another theme which is expressed throughout the short story. The people of Omelas know that they need to have the small bit of evil for them to truly understand that which is good. They force the single child to live such a terrible life so that they can compare their lives with the child’s life. Through this comparison they are able to identify that their lives are in fact full of goodness. Some instead think it better to share the pains of evil, and leave Omelas. It is hard to determine who the good people are and who the evil people are in this situation. This does not matter, only the fact that there is evil and there is good is important to prove this theme.

Happiness is in the eye of the beholder
This is proven through many comparisons with our society and their society. Their society is content with what they have. The story tells how their society is not less complex than ours “They were not less complex than us.”(Pg. 1, line 36) But they make do without the technological advancements and special equipment that we use to make our lives “happier”. To most of us, happiness would be having anything we could possible want, but to them, happiness is right there with them and nothing more is needed or desired to sustain this happiness.

Knowledge can be more painful than pain itself
You do not have to agree that this one is entirely true, but there is evidence that can help prove its relevance. In Omelas every citizen visits the child that is forced to suffer. Upon visiting the child, they become shocked that everyone is allowing for this to happen. These citizens often end up going home, crying or raging. These reactions show that the citizens of Omelas feel the mental pain from knowing about the child. Most citizens choose to cope with the pain in exchange for the genuine happiness that they will receive. A small few do decide, though, that the pain from this knowledge is too great for any reward, and so they leave Omelas to remove the burden of being part of such an unjustifiable activity.