In Ursula K. Le Guin’s short work “The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas”, Le Gruin establishes her idea of a utopia. The definition of a utopia, in the most common usage of the word, is an ideal, imagined place. The very definition uses the most important aspect of what a utopia is: imagined. In a perfect world, in a perfect utopia, there would be no pain, no suffering, nothing but happiness. In Le Guin’s work, she presents the idea of a utopia in a paradoxical way; there is no utopia without the suffering of a child, which defies the very definition itself.
Within this short portrayal of a faux-utopia, Le Guin focuses on a particular set of people, the boys and girls (and occasionally older men and women) who reflect on the existence of the child and choose to leave Omelas. “Each one goes alone” (283) is a phrase repeated by Le Guin throughout the description of the fleeing people, with particular emphasis on the word ‘alone’ and one has to wonder why.
Le Guin places significance the fact that the people who walk away, the ones that chose to leave Omelas and its false pretense of being classified as a utopia, do so alone. The ones that walk away from Omelas chose to do so alone because they’re either disgusted with how the rest of society just accepts the fate of the child, and maybe because they’re disgusted with themselves and believe that even if they had tried to improve the conditions of the child, it wouldn’t have been enough to even matter.
Which brings around another point, they leave alone without doing anything that could potentially help the child. They don’t offer comfort before they leave, nor do they even visit the child again, according to Le Guin. The people that walk away don’t take any action that could jeopardize the perfection of Omelas, instead melting away into the shadows because while their morals do not tolerate the condition of the child, they aren’t strong enough to cause the people to make a change.
If we take that into account, the fact that the ones who chose to leave do so passively, then what does it say about society as a whole? Are we ourselves guilty of this act that we condemn in the ones that walk away from Omelas? The answer is probably yes. Throughout history, and even today, there will always be the group of bystanders who turn away from horrific events while at the same time choosing to not to take any action against what they believe to be wrong. So in the story, while there are comments against the ones who walk away for their inaction, there really isn’t room for us to talk, or critique them.