Short story #1: The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas (Ursula K. Le Guin)

Deal Me In Reading Challenge: I drew the eight of hearts.

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

Comments: A few years ago I tried to read a book by this author (I forget which one), and could make neither head nor tail of it.  I gave up after trying the first ten pages three times.  I’m just not into science fiction.  So this short story would never have made its way onto my to-read list except that I decided to accept all ten stories in Flavourwire’s “10 Wonderful Short Stories to Read For Free Online” without exception.  Undoubtedly if I had permitted myself to jettison any of the stories, this would have been the first one to go.  And with wonderful irony, it comes out as the first card dealt to me!

And what do you know?  This is not science fiction, this is philosophy.  This is a laying-out of some of the fundamental questions about life, and about good and evil, that can be posed.  Can we justify the inhumane treatment of one person in order to guarantee the happiness of the majority? Can there be a truly good world without malice and evil?  Does walking away from an unjust system actually lead to anything positive?  And a host of variations on these themes.

This story is one I will muse on again and again, I believe.  And ultimately there will be no “right” answers.

I’m glad I read it – though it does not make me want to try any longer work of Le Guin for the moment!

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11 thoughts on “Short story #1: The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas (Ursula K. Le Guin)

  1. Pingback: Deal Me in 2014 weekly wrap up (and my selection, “Miracle Polish” by Steven Milhauser) | Bibliophilopolis

  2. I read this story for a prior year’s edition of this challenge. Like you mention, it turned out to be one I thought about often, long after I had read it. I haven’t read much of anything else by Le Guin, although I do have one book of her stories. I like how you mentioned that you added it somewhat reluctantly and – lo and behold – it was the first card you drew. The Deal Me In challenge does that to me often, leading me to a story that somehow is perfect for me at the time of reading. One memorable coincidence was when i drew a card for Oscar Wilde’s short story, “The Selfish Giant” on Easter Weekend. Oh well…

    Oh, when I posted about this story a while back, in my drive by research on-line I found a site that sold t-shirts that said “I Walked Away from Omelas” on the back. I almost ordered one, as I don’t have many literary t-shirts… 🙂
    -Jay

  3. I read some of LeGuin’s Earthsea books a long time ago. I don’t have any specific memories of them the way I have of other series so I don’t know what that may say for the books. It sounds like I might enjoy this story, though.
    -Dale

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