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In “The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas” and “The Lottery”, Ursula Le Guin and Shirley Jackson depict a seemingly perfect society built on dark secrets. In the story, “The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas”, 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 a single unfortunate child be kept in perpetual filth, darkness and misery, and that all its citizens should be told of this when they come of age.
After being exposed to the truth, most of the people of Omelas are initially shocked and disgusted, but are ultimately able to come to terms with the fact and resolve to live their lives in such a manner as to make the suffering of the unfortunate child worth it; however, some choose to leave. In the story, “The Lottery”, a small village of about 300 has an annual lottery; women, men, and children participate, to see who will be the chosen to ensure enough rain to the corn crops.
The way the winner does this is to be stoned to death. The way that the authors use irony to portray the story societies as wonderful and perfect and then toward the end show their dark secrets creates the intriguing and captivating works that they are.
In the story, “The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas”, Omelas seems at first to be a beautiful and happy place.
It takes place during a festival and there are children running around laughing and music. It talks about a race that is going to take place and how the horses are excited, “(the horses) flared their nostrils and pranced and boasted to one another,” with streamers of silver, gold, and green braided into their hair. The story has and air of excitement and celebration that is soon questioned when the author begins to talk about the child.
Omelas is shown to have a dark secret when it tells of the child who has to live in deplorable conditions in order for the rest of Omelas to prosper and have joy. The child is kept in a room about the size of a cupboard and is without clothes. It lives on only a “half-bowl of corn meal and grease a day” and is covered in festered sores from where it’s repeatedly sat in its own excrement. The author also goes on to tell of how once the children are old enough to understand, between 8 and 12, they are told of what is happening and why.
In the story it says, “Some of them understand why, and some do not, but they all understand that their happiness, the beauty of their city, the tenderness of their friendships, the health of their children, the wisdom of their scholars, the skill of their makers, even the abundance of their harvest and the kindly weathers of their skies, depend wholly on this child’s abominable misery.” This quote means that the child must live in retched conditions for the rest of the people to live happy lives; that if the child wasn’t living in misery that they wouldn’t be able to understand and appreciate the happiness in their lives.
“The Lottery” also depicts a wonderful and pleasing New England village. The day is depicted to be bright, with fragrant flowers and green lawns. The children are fidgety and boisterous do to the ending of school for the summer. The story talks about the children and what they’re doing while they wait for the adults to gather, “Bobby Martin had already stuffed his pockets full of stones, and the other boys soon followed his example, selecting the smoothest and roundest stones,” the act of gathering stones seems like a harmless and normal activity at the beginning. The townspeople are gathering in a square between the post office and the bank for the annual lottery. It gives off an air of what can be interpreted as nervous excitement that soon is shown to be anything but.
The story takes a turn for the dark side when it talks about the relief from the crowd when they or a child wasn’t chosen. It also is horrible in the fact that it says that “the whole lottery took less than two hours, so it could begin at ten o’clock in the morning and still be through in time to allow the villagers to get home for noon dinner?” They make sure that the stoning of a person to death isn’t inconvenient and delay mealtime; they’re more interested in making it home for dinner than being horrified at the fact that they just killed a person. Also the children take part in the stoning and are even encouraged to participate, “(t)he children had stones already, and someone gave little Davy Hutchinson few pebbles”.
In “The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas” and “The Lottery”, Ursula K. Le Guin and Shirley Jackson depict a seemingly perfect society but with a dark part. In “The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas” a child must live in retched conditions so that the rest on the village could prosper and in “The Lottery” each year a person must be stoned to death to ensure bountiful rain. The way that the authors portray first a utopian society and then delve into the dark secrets of the societies create the great stories.
Le Guin, Ursula K. “The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas.” Backpack Literature. Kennedy, X. J. and Dana Gioia. University of Southern California, 2012. 252-257. Jackson, Shirley. “The Lottery.” Backpack Literature. Kennedy, X. J. and Dana Gioia. University of Southern California, 2012. 258-265
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