An exploration of utilitarian context in the short story
“The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas”
In the story “The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas” there is an underlying instrument for gaining opulence. The instrument in this story is a strain on one’s moral code and buried deep in tradition. Mrs.Le Guinn, the author of “The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas”, utilizes this short story to portray how utilitarianism is justified, accepted, and deemed tolerable within society, even to the point of sacrificing the innocent to create an inescapable relative happiness. Utilitarianism’s is based on a basic moral principle of utility. Utility in this context could be defined is a form of “happiness”. A textbook definition of utilitarianism is, “The morally best (or better) alternative is that which produces the greatest (or greater) net utility, where utility is defined in terms of happiness or pleasure. We ought to do that which produces the greatest amount of happiness or pleasure for the greater number of people” (Mackinnon). This is an applicable definition of Utilitarianism and shows the flaws with this theory instantly. According to this definition, an action of pure distaste toward another entity could be possibly justified by this principle of utility. The question arises who can justify figuratively or literally killing something innocent for something beneficial to others. Is it possible to have something so good that it can weigh out the harm it does and if there is who is at liberty to decide this matter? “Utilitarianism, as a consequentialist moral theory, holds that it is the consequences or ends of our actions that determine whether particular means to them are justified. This seems to lead to conclusions that are contrary to commonsense morality. For example, wouldn’t it justify punishing an innocent person, a “scapegoat” in order to prevent a great evil or promote a great good?” (Mackinnon). These definitions are directly related to this farce Utopia. Mrs.Le Guinn’s story particularly bring attention on how societies justify scapegoating directly correlating to the philosophical principal of utility. In the story “The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas”, Omelas is brought to us as a sunny joyful city that has everything that you could desire. The author fears that this beginning interpretation of Omelas could be intrinsically soft, so she makes a statement to help curve our thoughts otherwise. “I Fear that Omelas so far strikes some of you as goody-goody. Smiles, bells, parades, horses, bleh. If so, please add an orgy.” (Guin). This statement is shocking nonetheless, but it carries a deep meaning. It is the first foreshadowing account that Omelas may be more than meets the eye. Treating an orgy as something that can just be added into the city with such ease and no guilt apparent raises the question of the city’s overall morality. The abruptness of this statement brings to existence the first possible flaw of the society. Mrs. Le Guinn also paints a slightly more questionable civilization with the introduction of “drooz”. A non-habit forming super drug that excites all senses and enlightens the mind with the enigmas of the universe. She continues to paint the portrait of the city dwelling on festivities, fraternity, and just an impeccable happiness in the souls of the people. After this elaborate depiction of Omelas, Mrs.Le Guinn poses a question, “Do you believe? Do you accept the festival, the city, the joy? No? Then let me describe one more thing.” (Guin). This is where the story changes and the foreshadowing of the possible askew morality of the city become alive in a sickening disturbing way. The omniscient narrator speaks of a basement of a public building or a cellar of a private spacious home, there is a room. It is a dim room with one locked door and no windows, three paces long and two paces wide. The room possesses a child and it is not even certain of the sexual gender of the child. The child...
Please join StudyMode to read the full document