The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas by Ursula K. Le Guin

Some inhabitants of a peaceful kingdom cannot tolerate the act of cruelty that underlies its happiness.

TITLE: The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas
AUTHOR: Ursula K. Le Guin
PUBLISHER: Nelson Doubleday/SFBC
YEAR: 1973
LENGTH: 32 pages
AGE: Adult
GENRE: Fantasy

Queer Rep Summary: No canon queer rep.

THE ONES WHO WALK AWAY FROM OMELAS is a brief story of complicity and abuse in a city where most have decided that the happiness of many is worth the abject misery of one.

This review contains spoilers.

This story is short with a simple but heartbreaking premise: that the happiness of an entire city depends on the abuse and misery of a small child, where the justification for the child's mistreatment is that its low intelligence and the abuse it has undergone until this point mean it wouldn't even know what to do if it were freed. Anyone who stays in the city past a certain age where they are shown the child does so with the knowledge that everything good for them is dependent on this child suffering. It's brief and well worth reading.

For me one of the most interesting parts of the story is the way that the abuse until the point is used to justify further abuse. The idea that only by thinking about one child suffering can these people be kind to the other children, and that now that the child has been abused they may as well stay that way because rescue and rehabilitation would be difficult and might never fully work... it's unfortunately (and clearly purposefully) close to the attitudes that are used in the real world to justify a whole host of ills.

CW for ableism, excrement, child abuse.

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