The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas: Critical Analysis
The author begins this short story vividly comparing the city and citizens of Omelas to a “city in a fairytale”. He scripts a city full of “sunshine flickers”, “children playing”, and “citizens smiling” to emphasize the positivity and perfection of this Omelas society. In almost every fairytale there is a villian set in place for the meer purpose of allowing the citizens to understand what suffering is. Omelas also has a reminder of suffering, which is the “imbecile”, that is a ten year old child rotting in a basement for the sake of the every other citizen in the city’s happiness. This short story elucidates the theme of individualism vs society, which can be seen in the controversy between the decisions of the citizens to stay or either walk away after they know the truth about their “utopia”. Through the lenses of Judith Shklar’s principles of misfortune and injustice and David Schmidtz’s ideals of reciprocity the audience can develop the understanding that the city of Omelas is completely corrupt and unjust.
Judith Shklar’s ideology of misfortune and injustice states misfortune is something that occurs independent of one’s decisions while an injustice can be a bad decision made or the intentional ignoring of the horrible decision or it’s effects. Shklar makes it clear that there is no excuse for a bad decision. For the people of Omelas this means that everyone that has witnessed the suffering of this child is committing injustice because they are either enjoying their lives in a “fairytale” or they deserted the city. Although it may seem as if the people who walk away are some sort of heroes they are not. According to Shklar, the ones that walked away are just as guilty as the delusional individuals who dismiss that the child even exists. This is because they observed the injustice that is taking place and instead of taking action they are deciding to ignore the situation and leave. Shklar would go further to assign the blame for the corruption of the Omelas to every individual who is apart of this system of a city. The people acknowledge the fact that this child’s circumstances are inhumane and unjust which can be seen in their reactions of “tears” or “tearless rage” and it taking a strenuous amount of time for some individuals to digest what they saw. The people of the city did not even bother to discover the sex of the child and they further dehumanize the child by referring to him/her as “it”. The isolation and negligent treatment of the child is proof of injustice b...