Anaylyse how language features were used to develop understand of an idea
Imagine a civilisation based upon your philosophical utopia.
‘the flourishing of the town depended wholly on this childs abonible misery’. This justification of suffering from ‘the ones who walk away from omelas’ (TOWWAFO) written by Ursula leguin, is used to portray the idea of utillitarianism in this society. At the beginning leguin uses language features to describe this utopia and then foreshadows this suffering in order to reveal that utopia is a paradox and that there is no such thing as a perfect society. Then in the middle leguin builds on this idea by creating a stark contrast using language features to further develop our understanding on utillitarianism and why the people of omelas accept it. then finally at the end, leguin uses language features to impose the reader with this question revealing the way that there must be suffering for happiness, and introducing this theme of individual vs society to the audience. Leguin reveals the idea of utillitarianism- greater happiness for the suffering of one- that is present in our society too, with sweatshops and fast fashion with the people making these suffering just like the child in the basement.
At the beginning, leguin draws us into this perfect utopian society using descriptive language to portray this unrealistic utopia. She uses alliteration “set the swallows soaring” of which the silibance mimics the sound of the ocean and the direct address of “joyous! How is one to tell about the city of omelas?”. These language features draw us into this romantic society, and we become complicit in it, just like the towns people. Leguin creates a false sense of security here, to lull us into this utopia only to contrats this later in the story. The sun here is described is pathetic fallacy as leguin continues to describe this perfect society. However leguin then foreshadows the idea of how society cannot function without suffering, by descriptive language and irony “ they were not simple folk, you see. Not dulcet shepards, noble savages or bland utopians. They were not less complex than us.” This quote confuses the reader as we question, is this really a utopia? Leguin draws us in further as we begin to relate to the omelas more as this utopia doesn’t seem as unrealistic anymore. Leguin is revealing how utopia is a paradox here, as we realise we aren’t unlike the omelas. The perfect society does not exist without complexity and suffering. Much like our own society, whilst appearing as perfect from the outside with trendy clothes and fast transport, leguin foreshadows how there must always be suffering to create this happiness. Our very own ‘children in the closet’ is the cost of travelling fast, the cost of underage children working long hours in sweatshops. This is the first hint we get that we may not be so different from the omelas.
At the turning point, leguin uses language features to create a noticeable shift in omelas to reinforce the idea that utopis does not exist, and reveal that happiness cannot exist without suffering. This shift first occurs when leguin asks the audience “do you believe it? no? then let me describe one more thing” only to go on to describe a child with “ a protruding belly and festering in sores from sitting in its own excretement”. We are directly addressed, which dras us in, and shocks us as leguin describes this suffering child. We feel anger, impotence and disgust and expect the people of omelas to feel the same as we were relating to them before, and they don’t seem that different from us. We feel somewhat responsible for the child as leguin develops our understanding on this idea of one person suffering for the greater good of society and how the people of omelas simply accept it. leguin continues to illustrate this suffering by dehumanizing this child “perhaps it was born defective or perhaps it was made imbecile through neglect, malnutrition and fear”. By using ‘it’ pronouns it dehumanizes the child as they see it as merely an object, and by using ‘perhaps’ suggest that they don’t know much about this child like how we don’t know much about the suffering in our societies, and they don’t intent to know mo. This distances omelas from this child as they can’t relate to it as a human being. As it ‘must be there’ as the people mature, this dehumanization is a justification for their actions. Leguin also illustrates the childs fear of the mops in the corner, symbolising how the town is afraid of the child also,as its always there, so they accept this suffering for the greater good. Leguin then quotes the “banality of evil” suggesting that the omelas aren’t evil people but their actions are, relating to us more. They are evil without being evil which leguin then imposes this question on us. Are we no better than the omelas? Leguin makes us aware of this suffering in our own society and how we have accepted it for greater happiness. This idea of utillitarianism that is present all through omelas is also rich in our society of our cost of the planet, and the history of slavery we have had as we realise we relate to omelas far more than at the beginning, which terrifies us.
In the ending of TOOWAFO, leguin challenges us as an audience, posing the moral question, would you stay or would you go?
At the end, leguin justifies this utillitarianism and imposes this question on us, introducing the idea of individual vs society. We find relting to omelas with suffering more realistic than the utopia before, so she interrogates us “now do you believe? Are they not more credible?”which exposes us as readers as we get questioned if we believe the suffering in our own society. Leguin begins to justify utillitarianism by llisting “the abundance of harvest, clear of skies … depends wholly on this childs abomidible misery”. The use of strong emotive language “abomidable misery” makes us as readers feel sorry for the child and we wonder if the prosperity of society is really worth it? we wonder how the omelas live with the guilt and negative emotions, and then wonder how we do. to further develop our understanding leguin introduces us to the theme of individual vs society by revealing how some walk away “they seem to know where they are going, the ones who walk away from omela”” this is the ultimate stand for individualism, rejecting the comfort of society for own personal morals. By alluding to the fact that it’s impossible to tell whats beyond omelas, leguin symbolises how it’s impossible to have a city of happiness without suffering. Leguin poses the question to us as an audience too, would we stay or would we go. Leguin reveals how we are so deep in the comfort of our own society, how we all have accepted our realities like the people of omelas as a part of our maturation process. We feel guilty as we realise we have distanced ourself from and justified this suffering our whole lives as an excuse. The reality is is that there are people dying from over exhaustion and not getting enough pay to feed their families, while we complain about shopping taking too long. Leguin is making us realise just how naïve and deep into acceptance of reality we are to realise the cost of our comfort.
Omelas illustrates to us that the desire to achieve utopian ideals has many consequences and will always result in suffering or the downfall of a utopian society. Omelas also present to us the moral dilemmas of a utillitarianism approach to society, how sacrificing one of the greater good will always spark debate and leave us questioning the true state of the world we live in today. So, will you stay or will you go?