March 7, 2011
The narrator of the story “The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas” spends a great deal of time describing the town that he/she lives in. It is described to us as a place the narrator has an obvious attachment to and that is very dear to her heart (assuming the narrator is a female, of course). The form of writing used by the narrator is not so much of an explanatory style, but more like a conversation. The narrator tries very hard to make us believe in Omelas, whether it be positive or negative thoughts, by using concepts of “space” and “place”.
In the beginning of the story, it seems as if the narrator wants us to believe Omelas is a town of glory and happiness where everyone dances around with friends and family in festivities. “In other streets the music beats faster, a shimmering of gong and tambourine, and the people went dancing, the procession was a dance. Children dodged in and out, their high calls rising like the swallows’ crossing flights over the music and singing” (Le Guin 242-243). Between children running around and the adults dancing with cheerful music, the narrator makes Omelas seem like a very desirable place. It seems as if she is trying to persuade us that life in Omelas is fabulous and that everyone should come to experience all that Omelas has to offer.
As we read further, the narrator begins to speak about a different side of Omelas that we, as readers, have not seen yet. She tells us that not everybody is happy all the time. “They were not simple folk… But we do not say the words of cheer much any
more. All smiles have become archaic” (Le Guin 243).
The narrator starts to play a bit of devil’s advocate later on in the story. As she explains Omelas further, she makes it seem that she does not want her readers to think Omelas is this over the top, extraordinary place to live. She wants us to know that there is more to this town than children laughing and adults drinking and dancing, having the time of their lives. “But even granted trains, I fear that Omelas so far strikes some of you as goody-goody. Smiles, bells , parades, horses, bleh. If so, please add an orgy. If an orgy would help, don’t hesitate” (Le Guin 244). She is so desperate to make us, her readers, believe that there is a dark side to this town that she leaves it up to us to decide what goes on in Omelas. The orgy may not have ever happened, but to her, she is happy knowing that we think an orgy did take place, only because it brings the once-thought-of high status of Omelas down.
It is because of the way the narrator speaks to us in this story that we become so involved. It is almost as if we are in this predicament of loving Omelas or hating it. We, as readers, get this feeling that we have to choose whether we like the town that she has described and whether she has convinced us enough one way or the other. The only reason why we are put in this position is because obviously we cannot go to Omelas ourselves. For all we know, Omelas could be completely made up. It’s as if we are blinded in this situation, and it is only through the narrator that we can feel like we have been to Omelas before. “ It is possible that the blind man who can hear but has no hands and can barely move lacks all sense of space; perhaps to such a person all sounds are bodily sensations and not cues to the character of an environment” (Tuan 14). By not
being able to physically be in Omelas, we lose the sense of “space” and “place”, but make up for it with the narrator’s point of view.
The narrator continuously speaks to us like she is trying to make us feel the same way she does about the town she lives in. As her readers, we lack the sense of place that she is experiencing. It seems she feels a bit discouraged because it is hard for her to put into words for us what this town means to her. “Joyous! How is one to tell about joy? How describe the citizens of Omelas?” (Le Guin 243) Although she struggles, she does get her points across.
The final downfall of Omelas comes later on in the story. The narrator gives us one last chance to believe in Omelas. She says “Do you believe? Do you accept the festival, the city, the joy? No? Then let me describe one more thing” (Le Guin 245). She then tells us about the young boy that is trapped in a dungeon in the basement of a beautiful building in Omelas. The boy is obviously neglected “it sits hunched in the corner farthest from the bucket and the two mops… The door is always locked; and no body every comes, except that sometimes… the door rattles terribly and opens, and a person, or several people, are there. One of them may come in and kick the child to make it stand up” (Le Guin 245). The strangers that walk by the boy and stare don’t do much for him. They either go back above ground and live the lives they had been living, knowing the boy in the dungeon is less fortunate than them, or they walk away from Omelas all together, unable to handle the responsibility of the unjustifiable situation.
The narrator once again puts us in a predicament because while reading, we think to ourselves how immoral the people of Omelas are, or if they are possibly doing the right
thing by leaving the boy in the dungeon. No matter which side we choose, it is because of the narrator and her language that we have gotten so captivated in this story. Although we are put in a situation to choose whether we think the people of Omelas are wrong for keeping the boy trapped in the dungeon, it is not out role to play in this story. The fact of the matter is that the narrator has used such illustrative language to make us feel as if we are really there, in Omelas, battling this controversial experience.
Although we don’t have the upper hand, like the narrator, to see and feel Omelas, we get to understand it as best we can with such circumstances. The narrator makes us able to see the children dancing and hear the music playing and the swallows calling. “Given sight and the power to move and handle things, sounds greatly enrich the human feeling for space” (Tuan 14). The writing in this story gives us such a detailed description that it makes up for the lack of us actually being there.
The way the narrator describes the story of “The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas” really helps the readers understand a different dynamic of the story. By giving us a sense of what she experienced in her “place”, we were able to see a side of Omelas that an outsider would not usually be able to. She used language to help us get a taste of the way Omelas felt, looked, and smelled. It is very interesting to see how by describing Omelas to a tee, like the narrator did, we have such a greater insight on what Omelas is actually about.
Work Cited Esposito 5
Tuan, Yi-Fu. Space and Place: The Perspective of Experience.
Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1977. Print.
Le Guin, Ursula K., “The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas”. An Introduction to Fiction. eds. X.J. Kennedy and Dana Gioia. Boston: Longman, 2010. Print.