A Question of Morality

Reading The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas raises several moral questions.
The main question involves the happiness of a community at the expense of another
person’s misery and suffering. The story starts off by discussing the fictional city of Omelas as
an ideal place to live where “they (the citizens of Omelas) did not use swords, or keep slaves.”
The city is described as a place without the presence of “barbarians.” Therefore, the citizens of
Omelas are always “happy” with their way of life based off of “few” “rules and laws” Thus, the
city of Omelas can be best described as a utopia, “an imagined place or state of things in which
everything is perfect.” This utopia, where all the citizens are content, exists because of the
suffering of a child who is “about six, but actually is nearly ten.” This child is described as
“feeble-minded” and is one who has gone “through fear, malnutrition, and neglect.” This child
screams, “Please let me out. I will be good!” when visitors come to see the child whom is locked
up and suffering. After some citizens of Omelas see the child, they “leave Omelas, walk ahead
into the darkness, and do not come back.” While some citizens leave for this reason, others
continue to stay in the town with the knowledge that the town’s cheerful morale comes at the
expense of the torture of a child. Simply put, those who leave Omelas are unable to stay in a city
where a child is suffering so that others may be happy.

If I were a citizen of the city of Omelas, I would do the right thing by leaving the city of
Omelas immediately. I believe that true happiness exists when all people are content and are
given the opportunity to learn and engage with society at no one’s expense. Similarly, I believe
that it is morally wrong to use fear tactics such as waterboarding in order to get information from
terrorists as terrorists are human beings and deserve to be treated with human rights.
Furthermore, I do not think that teachers should “make an example” out of a single troublesome
student because, in doing so, the teacher is using the child as a “tool” so that others will refrain
from acting in a troublesome manner. Although this may be effective, children, at the end of the
day, are human beings who are inevitably fallible. Therefore, it is unfair to use a child as a tool
for the desired discipline of other students. Finally, I do not subscribe to the theory that “ the
ends justify the means.” Once again, humans are not tools to be made examples of, therefore, it
is unacceptable to believe that the ends can ever justify any kind of inhumane, cruel means. In
the case of the short story, the happiness of the utopian city is not justified as it comes at the
expense of a poor, suffering child. All in all, the happiness of a society should never come at the
expense of the suffering of another human being.

Even though some may argue that the child is beyond the point of no return, in terms of
his “feeble-minded” condition, they must understand that by allowing the child to suffer more
will further harm the child. Furthermore, it is morally incorrect to leave a troublesome situation
behind in which a human being is suffering. Similarly, it is unfortunate that some members of the
United States Congress remain complacent to the struggles of working class America.
Therefore, it is reasonable to say that all of the citizens who continue to stay in Omelas are,
unfortunately, complacent to the child’s suffering. Those who would continue to stay in Omelas
simply lack empathy for the poor, suffering, locked-up child. All in all, it is important to be a
good, reasonable, empathetic human being while dealing with situations in which the quality of a
human’s life is put in question.