“They were not simple folks you see, though they were happy. But we do not say the words of cheer much anymore. All smiles have become archaic”.
Le Guin mentions that the citizens of Omelas are “simple” various times within the short story, As the story begins, it is mentioned that the Festival of Summer has begun within the city. What Le Guin wants the audience to believe is that Omelas is a utopian society, however this does not exist. It’s as if the Omelans have become almost robotic and truly emotionless. The last sentence referring to archaic smiles supports this. With smiles being antiquated, it’s as if they are fake and trying to see past the dark paradox that lives within a “basement under one of the beautiful buildings of Omelas”. The child is not given any recognition by the Omelans. The child is repeatedly referred to as an “it” showing it’s meaningless worth. This child is the key to allowing the Omelans to live what they think to be is a utopian lifestyle. It’s mentioned that, “they all understand that their happiness depend wholly on this child’s abominable misery.” Le Guin is showing the audience that the Omelans, as happy and simple as they seem, they are oblivious and selfish in gaining their so-called happiness.
“They know that they, like the child, are not free.”
This quote also supports my statement made from the first quotation that the Omelans don’t truly have happiness, as it is clouded by their “utopian” lifestyle. The child’s misery serves as their anchor to happiness. Neither the Omelans nor the child is free. The child is not free for obvious reasons; living in a windowless dirt basement cellar, given only scrapes to eat, and no access to human interaction. The Omelans, as “simple and happy” they portray themselves to be, they are just as trapped as the child. Only those brave and empathetic are able to escape. There is no physical barrier keeping the citizens within Omelas, it’s their own personal selfishness that is doing it. They are willing to let the child suffer to their benefit of having a better life. Maybe they are afraid of leaving Omelas and experience the unknown so they’d rather stay trapped and “happy”.
“They did not use swords, or keep slaves.”
This is a false statement. The child, who is the focal point of this story, is undeniably a slave. A slave is someone who is legal property and forced to obey. The child remembers life with its mother before suffering within the basement. It’s mentioned that “the door is always locked; and nobody ever comes” along with “there may not even be a kind word spoken to the child.” If Le Guin wants the audience to believe that the Omelans don’t believe the child is a slave, well, this was poorly portrayed then. However, it could also just be irony. Irony that the Omelans believe they are kind, happy, and simple folk, but must be given their happiness only if the child lives a terrible life. This just goes to support the notion of false happiness that’s also mentioned from the first two quotations.