Life in Omelas

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Life in Omelas

Ursula K. Le Guin's short story "The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas" describes a Utopian village. The beautiful city of Omelas is described as though it were in a fairy tale. The city has no crime, enemies, and most importantly the citizens have no sense of guilt. Unfortunately the beauty of the city is built upon the torture and abuse of a small child whose suffering serves as a scapegoat for the sins of the city's society. Some of the citizens of Omelas choose to leave the city because they do not wish to partake in the social contract that binds the city to its prosperity. Le Guin uses the themes of the scapegoat and the rite of passage to explore the values of Omelasians.

The first appearance of the scapegoat is the Festival of Summer, Le Guin does not directly state why the celebration is taking place, but the festival is of great significance to the city of Omelas. In medieval Europe Mid-Summer Fire Festivals occur to celebrate the sun, but also to expunge the evil. Sir James George Frazer, states that, "The annual expulsion of evil generally coincides with some well marked change of season, such as the beginning or end of winter, the beginning or end of the rainy season, etc" (Frazer 224-225). Frazer also explains that," the three great features of the midsummer celebration were the bonfires, the procession with torches round the fields, and custom of a rolling wheel" (Frazer 161). There are no literal fires in Omelas but the images of "houses with red roofs and painted walls between old moss-grown gardens and under avenues of trees, past great parks and public buildings, processions moved" (Le Guin 319), bring to mind distinct similarities. The mountains that surround the city "burned with white-gold fire" (Le Guin 319), this suggests that the mountains are aflame, which is another component of Mid-Summer Festivals. The celebration in Konz, Germany on the Moselle River involves a wheel that is set on fire on the mountain and...
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