What grade would I get for this essay, and how can I improve?

  1. Analyse how language features were used to deepen your understanding of a theme.

“Please let me out, I promise I’ll be good.” This is a quote from Ursula Le Guin’s short story, the ones who walk away from Omelas (TOWWAFO). This story is about a near utopic town, who’s prosperity depends on the suffering of one child, who says this quote while locked in a room in a basement. Le Guin uses various language features throughout the story, which deepened my understanding of the theme, utilitarianism. These include pronouns, repetition, juxtaposition, emotive language, and listing. TOWWAFO is a powerful short story with strong ideas that readers can link to real life circumstances, as the child can be seen as a symbol for upper class people prospering at the cost of others.

At the beginning of the text, Le Guin uses language features to draw us into a seemingly utopian society, in order to deepen my understanding of utilitarianism. The text begins with a lot of descriptive language in the phrase “with a clamour of bells that set the swallows soaring, the festival of Summer came to the city Omelas, bright towered by the sea.” Words such as “soaring”, “Summer”, and “bright” are used to evoke ideas of beauty and happiness, which helps the readers to believe in the city’s happiness, so we will understand the choice to imprison and abandon the child. When the child is finally introduced, Le Guin says “perhaps it was born defective, or perhaps it has become imbecile through fear, malnutrition and neglect.” An important language feature used here is the use of the pronouns “it” when referring to the child. This is an unusual pronoun to use when referring to a human, as it is generally only used for inanimate objects. This illustrates how the town attempts to dehumanise the child by choosing to see them as an object, in order to minimise their guilt. Furthermore, the repetition of the word “perhaps” indicates how the townspeople don’t even know much about the child, which further dehumanises it. These language featured deepened my understanding of the theme of utilitarianism by exposing a major flaw in the system, and encouraging me to question if I myself have a utilitarian mindset. Much like our own society, despite appearing perfect from the outside, with trendy clothing and fast fashion, Le Guin insinuates how there must always be suffering to create this happiness. Our very own “children in the basement” is the cost of children working long hours in sweatshops, and the cost of fast transport on our environment.

As the text progresses, Le Guin uses the language feature, juxtaposition to develop the theme of utilitarianism, which deepened my understanding of it. The room that the child is locked in is described with words such as “dark,” “dirty”, and “damp”, which strongly juxtaposes the previous description of Omelas, mentioned above. Le Guin then states how the child can “still hear the sound of its mother’s voice.” This juxtaposes the idea of dehumanising the child through use of pronouns, by reminding us how the child is still very much a human being. Additionally, emotive language used here is something that touches us, as the sound of our mother’s voice is something familiar to many of us. The language features here helped me relate to the child, and feel the suffering they are going through, which developed my understanding of the theme of utilitarianism by making me question whether the prosperity of the town is really worth it. Le Guin makes us aware of this suffering in our own society, and how we have accepted it for the greater good. The theme of utilitarianism that is present throughout Omelas is also abundant in New Zealand, for example our purchasing from unethical companies, and our history of exploitation.

Le Guin continues to use language features to develop and deepen my understanding of the theme of utilitarianism as the text draws to a close. An example of this is when she uses listing to describe the feelings of the citizens of Omelas. “They feel anger, outrage, impotence, despite all the explanations.” The use of listing showcases all the negative feelings towards this child’s situation that the citizens may have, thus illustrating how some citizens of Omelas do not agree with these utilitarian values, despite a supposed justification that Le Guin set up earlier. In the final paragraph, she uses repetition to explain to us how some people choose to walk away from Omelas in order to not be complicit in the child’s suffering. The phrase “they keep walking” is repeated to emphasise the sureness that people who leave are feeling, as they cannot reconcile the sacrifice of the child for their own happiness. The use of the verb “walk” as opposed to “run” or “sprint” demonstrates how these people are now at peace with themselves. This helped deepen my understanding of the theme of utilitarianism by introducing how there are many others who do not concur with the utilitarian mindset. Le Guin reminds us that in order to not be complicit in the suffering of the people in our own world, we don’t have to take giant steps and remove problems at the source, but we can just choose to not engage with their products. We can choose sustainable transport, and purchase from ethical companies, even though they may be more expensive.

Throughout the TOWWAFO, Ursula Le Guin has consistently used language features to deepen my understanding of the theme of utilitarianism. These include pronouns, repetition, juxtaposition, emotive language, and listing. In doing so, she has also commented on society by allowing the reader to link these ideas outside of the text to real world contexts. Will we take a stand against society’s comfort, or will we stay complicit with our own “child in the basement.” Ultimately, the reader is posed with a question; “would you walk away from Omelas?”

Kia ora LeNom

Nice clear intro - I suggest unpacking the theory of utilitarianism in your intro - what is the author SAYING about it - consider - is she celebrating how awesome it is? critiquing it?

Aside from that, a very strong essay with great evidence, a strong sense of purpose, beyond the text links and it certainly commands attention. Well done and good luck!