Tuesday, 29 April 2008

The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas

A story.

Worth a read. It's quite short, about people who live in a beautiful city with a dark secret

"The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas" (Variations on a theme by William James) is a short story by Ursula K. Le Guin, included in her short story collection The Wind's Twelve Quarters; it won the Hugo Award for short stories in 1974. It has no plot, no characters, no dialogue; merely a setting, the city Omelas. It is often used in discussing the nature and adequacy of utilitarian theories of justice.

In the story, Omelas is a utopian city of happiness and delight, whose inhabitants are smart and cultured. Everything about Omelas is pleasing, except for the secret of the city: the good fortune of Omelas requires that an unfortunate child be kept in filth, darkness and misery, and that all her citizens know of this on coming of age.

Some of them walk away; the story ends "The place they go towards is a place even less imaginable to us than the city of happiness. I cannot describe it at all. It is possible it does not exist. But they seem to know where they are going, the ones who walk away from Omelas."

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