The title of the story of Omelas makes a reader think that the story explains who these people were, why they walked away, and where they went. However, a skim through the story makes it apparent that the narrator casually outlines this information in the final paragraph of the story. Initially, the story creates a blissful impression. The idea that comes to mind at its beginning is that it probably describes a summer festival in a perfect city called Omelas with happy and prosperous residents celebrating the beauty of life. This impression is occasioned by the narrator’s description of the vicinity of Omelas.
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For example, in the first paragraph, the narrator depicts the serenity that is characteristic of the city in the morning. There is great music, and both the young and the old tread the beautiful streets in dance. The initial impression that the story creates is augmented by the idea that unlike prosperous cities of the world that thrive under slavery and dictatorship, Omelas has no king, police, or slaves. The city enjoys a peaceful and harmonious coexistence.
However, the blissful impression begins to wane when the narrator discloses that some ills such as prostitution are tolerated in the city. Peace and happiness abound in the midst of corruption, thriving drug business, and weird sexual escapades, which involve the religious class as well. Intriguingly, the dwellers of Omelas do not revolt against such behavior. Consequently, it became apparent that Omelas is a corrupt society in which pleasure is sought without any consideration of its possible ramifications.
The story assumes a morbid tone when the narrator describes a sad scenario about a young child who is locked in an unkempt dark cellar with little room for movement. This child lives on a diet of a half bowl of cornmeal and grease per day. The narrator does not mention the child’s sex but points out that the child is naked and has sore buttocks due to prolonged sitting on her excrement. For argument’s sake, the child could have been a girl.
As the story unfolds, the narrator delineates the reason behind the child’s suffering, thereby giving insight into the theme of the story. It turns out that the entire city of Omelas was aware of the child’s plight because most of the city’s residents had seen the child. Some simply ignore the child’s suffering while others cry, but do nothing further to help. A considerable number of the residents leave the city after seeing the child. However, as already noted, the narrator does not mention their destination. Apparently, they all understand the reason behind the child’s agony. The residents of Omelas strongly believe that their good fortune depends on the child’s devastating agony. Therefore, the child is a sacrifice aimed at giving Omelas its pomp and color.
It is baffling to imagine that people would comfortably lead happy lives at the expense of a poor child wasting away in seclusion. This scenario causes one to wonder whether the child is privy to the reason behind this agonizing existence. The idea of sacrificing an individual to deliver a pleasurable life to the masses dominates the story. Clearly, the beautiful city of Omelas is propped by the suffering of the child, and any attempt to liberate the child would be tantamount to destroying the city.
A somber mood prevails when the narrator relates the plight of the people who, after beholding the tortured child, choose to walk away. They march out of the city into the darkness with a strong resolve never to come back. No one seems to be concerned with their destination or whereabouts after they have left. Their decision to leave shows that to them, the life of the child is as important as the lives of the masses. They do not subscribe to the dogma of permissible crime. Seemingly, the knowledge that any attempt to alleviate the child’s suffering would be futile motives for their departure.
In conclusion, the city of Omelas is a perfect example of our society where sacrifice is one of the laces that form the fabric of society. However, the question one needs to pose is whether sacrificing the child was justifiable. Many people would argue that it is ethically sound to make any form of sacrifice for the good of many and that the affected individuals should understand. This argument is consistent with the principle behind act utilitarianism, and clearly, this is the principle guides the city of Omelas. However, not all people subscribe to the same moral precepts. Those who choose to walk away are entitled to such a decision. However, walking away quietly seems to be a cowardly act.
They ought to have voiced their reservations by condemning the act. Therefore, just like in modern society, some people are unfairly sacrificed, but those who can make a difference choose to remain quiet. This story is, thus, a typical depiction of many societies across the world.