The Use Of Symbolism In The Ones
Who Walk Away From Omelas Essay, Research Paper
“The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas”
At times, in order for one to be happy, one may sometimes base and compare their happiness on the misfortunes of others. The Child, in the story “The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas” by Ursula K. Leguin, is used as a significant symbol to effectively create emotional responses in the readers mind, and is also used to criticise the members of today’s society. Finally in the end, the symbol of the child relays a strong message to the reader, concerning the bases of ones happiness.
Throughout the entire story, because of the effective description used, the author was able to captivate the readers emotions in many different ways. To begin, a child portrays images of innocence, loveliness, and other such beautified characteristics. A child is a human being, who as any other, has feelings and emotions. However, in this short story, the child was portrayed as completely different.
“It is so thin there are no calves to its legs; its belly protrudes; it lives on a
half-bowl of corn meal and grease a day. It is naked. Its buttocks and thighs
are a mass of festered sores, as it sits in its own excrement continually.”
(Le Guin, p. 258)
Furthermore, the reader also becomes aware of the filthy, unsanitary surroundings that the child is subjected to. (Le Guin, p. 259) After being given such a detailed description of the child, as well as his/her environment, feelings of pity, and disgust enter the readers mind. Moreover, when the reader realizes that it is because of this appalling child that the citizens of Omelas receive their happiness, and that the sole reason for this child’s existence is only because he/she is used as a sacrifice; the reader then begins to experience feelings of disbelief and sadness for the child. The child is portrayed with the use of such vivid description so that the reader is able to feel sympathetic towards the child, and perhaps come to realization of what society is like today.
In this story, the author gives the reader an idea of how cruel and selfish those in a society can be when it comes to their own fortunes. When the citizens of Omelas see the child, some feel pity, and some don’t. “Often the young people go home in tears, or in a tearless rage, when they have seen the child and faced this terrible paradox.” (Le Guin, p.259) However, what do they do to put an end to this type of cruelty towards this child? Nothing. Sure they feel as though they would like to, but how many really do? The author seems to use the symbol of this child to make the readers, as members of society, become aware of issues such as this, that are occurring frequently in the world today. In the story, it seems as though the citizens of Omelas are denying what the child is forced to go through. Although they become aware of the conditions the child is subject to, and how mistreated he/she is by the citizens of Omelas, (Le Guin, p. 258) they do not want to change the situation, for if they did, it would mean the discontinuation of their own happiness.
“If the child were brought up into the sunlight out of that vile place, if it were
cleaned and fed and comforted, that would be a good thing, indeed; but if it
were done, in that day and hour all the prosperity and beauty and delight of
Omelas would wither and be destroyed.”
(Leguin, p. 259)
When looking at third world countries where sickness, malnutrition, neglect and abuse are exposed all over, there are many people who feel pity, unfortunately there is very little action taken to change this. The author uses the child in the story to symbolize the other children in the world who are mistreated as horribly as the child, based on someone else’s expense.
Moreover, there is a strong message given to the readers. Although, the author seems as though she is moralizing, the readers are not being lectured to. The reader is given the surroundings of the child, and what the child is subjected to, and are given a choice: accept this treatment of the child, or walk away. (Le Guin, p. 260) Nevertheless, the author also wants the reader to see the irony of the situation where the child is necessary to the society, because the author is trying to tell the reader that everyone needs something against which to compare their existence. One is able to know how well off they are in their country after making the comparison of the lives of people in other countries. As foolish as it sounds, the author is trying to relay the message, without others as a basis of comparison, how does one measure happiness?
In conclusion, it is because of this symbolic child that Le Guin has been able to draw in the reader emotionally, as well as make the reader aware of the issues happening in our society today. The author has also been able to effectively convey the message to the reader, the great unfortunate it is that in order for one to realize his/her blessings, they must compare it with those of the less fortunate.