“The Lottery” and “The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas” Essay
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Throughout history parables have permeated every culture. Mostly, it has been seen in religious texts. For example, there is the Bible, Qur’an, and Rig-Veda. Most of their history was passed down orally. Today’s society is lucky enough to have the printing press which gives people many stories to read and think about. Two of these stories that are related to parables are “The Lottery” and “The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas”. Both of these stories use allegory which are hidden in interesting waysIn “The Lottery” and “The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas”, the beautiful scene at the beginning of these two short stories along with the dark underbelly endings shows that we are inherently evil.
It is no surprise that each story starts on a warm sunny day, a day when characters in a story should fall in love. The author of “The Lottery” begins her tale on June twenty seventh. The characters in the story gather round in groups while talking and gossiping.
The tone of the story suggests that some underlying excitement is stirring within the townspeople. One cannot grasp the evil waiting in the hearts of the Characters until till the end of the story upon which a woman is stoned to death by everyone in the town, including her family. “The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas” is another story in which a beautiful sunny day turns into despair and hopelessness. The author of “The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas” writes to convince one that this utopian society does not feel guilty in the least. When one discovers the child in the broom closet, one will become aware that the whole of this utopian society depends on this child’s suffering. Contrary to what the author wrote in the beginning of the story, the people of Omelas do feel guilt but they justify that guilt by saying the child suffers for the good of the people.
These two stories represent totalitarian government. A totalitarian government oppresses all citizens in that society. In “The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas” the city of Omelas represents a totalitarian government. The child represents the oppressed within that society. “Happiness is based on a just discrimination of what is necessary, what is neither necessary nor destructive, and what is destructive” (LeGuin 125). If a society is truly utopian there is no need for discrimination, pain, or suffering. Again, the author is not convincing enough that this is a utopian society.
Unlike the short story “The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas” in which the metaphor for a totalitarian government is hidden, “The Lottery” is an outright description of a traditional totalitarian government. In the plot in “The Lottery”, totalitarianism is the cornerstone of the characters’ behavior. The men choose a piece of paper from the box which is falling apart. The box is a metaphor relating to the power that is now in place. The box, representing power was in plain sight, it was in the post office, a barn, and even on a shelf in the grocery store. The presence of the box shows that the characters lived in a society ruled by fear that they face every day.
The most overwhelming theme in the two stories mentioned above is sacrifice. In “The Lottery”, Old Man Warner says it best, “lottery in June, corn be heavy soon” (Jackson 109). This quote seems to be a direct reference to ancient rituals of sacrifice. This short story also mentions a chant that was said by the official that is in charge of the lottery. Stranger yet is the fact that most matriarchal societies preformed fertility rites around the time set in the story, not sacrificial rites. This seems to be an example of how the characters in the lottery are somehow twisted in their traditions.
In “The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas” a child sits in a broom closet, alone, scared, and unloved for the sake of the supposed utopian society. One can see immediately that this child is sacrificed for this alleged utopia.
Both “The Lottery” and “The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas” are intriguing stories filled with religious allegory. From the stimulating opening scenes these two narratives traverse through good and evil. Then, these tales pause and consider how a society can lapse with a few dominating the masses. Finally, the ultimate offering, sacrifice, is examined. In the end, one can only judge these stories for one’s self.
Jackson, Shirley. “The Lottery.” in An Introduction to Literature. Ed . Russell. Boston:Pearson, 2008. 105-112LeGuin, Ursula. “The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas” in An Introduction to Literature. Ed. Russell. Boston: Pearson, 2008. 124-129