The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas (Le Guin)

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The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas
Summary of the Short Story
Microsummary: A utopian city's happiness relied on the suffering of a single child locked in a basement. When citizens discovered this, they faced a moral dilemma: accept the situation or leave the city.

In the city of Omelas, a utopia by the sea, the Festival of Summer was celebrated with great joy and excitement. The streets were filled with processions, music, and dancing, as people of all ages gathered to enjoy the festivities. The city was known for its happiness, prosperity, and the absence of negative aspects such as slavery, war, and poverty. The citizens were intelligent, compassionate, and content with their lives.

Citizens of Omelas — inhabitants of a utopian city; happy, prosperous, and compassionate; face a moral dilemma upon learning about the suffering child.

As part of the festival, young riders participated in a horse race across the Green Fields. The horses were adorned with colorful streamers, and the riders were cheered on by the enthusiastic crowd. The atmosphere was filled with a sense of victory and triumph, as the people of Omelas celebrated the beauty and goodness of life.

However, the happiness and prosperity of Omelas came at a terrible cost. In a basement under one of the city's beautiful buildings, a child was locked in a small, windowless room. The child, around ten years old, was feeble-minded, malnourished, and neglected. It lived in its own filth, and its body was covered in sores. The child's misery was the source of Omelas' happiness, as the well-being of the city depended on the child's suffering.

The Suffering Child — locked in a basement; around 10 years old, feeble-minded, malnourished, and neglected; the source of Omelas' happiness and prosperity.

The citizens of Omelas were aware of the child's existence, and some even visited the room to see it for themselves. They understood that their happiness was built on the child's suffering, and they accepted this reality as a necessary part of their lives. When children in Omelas were old enough to understand, they were told about the child and the reason for its suffering. Many were initially shocked and upset, but eventually, they came to accept the situation as well.

They all know it is there, all the people of Omelas. Some of them have come to see it, others are content merely to know it is there.

However, there were some who could not accept the suffering of the child as the price for their happiness. These individuals, both young and old, chose to leave Omelas and walk away from the city. They ventured into the unknown, never to return, seeking a place that did not rely on the suffering of an innocent child for its happiness.

They leave Omelas, they walk ahead into the darkness, and they do not come back. The place they go towards is a place even less imaginable to most of us than the city of happiness.

In the end, the story of Omelas serves as a reminder of the moral dilemmas and ethical questions that can arise in a seemingly perfect society. The happiness and prosperity of the city came at a great cost, and the citizens were forced to confront the reality of their utopia and make a choice about their own values and beliefs.