The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas

by

Ursula K. Le Guin

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The Narrator Character Analysis

The Narrator is the unnamed speaker who dictates the story, speaking directly to the reader. The narrator seems to be inventing Omelas as they write. Although never stated explicitly, the narrator does not try to hide the fact that they are describing a place that exists only in their imagination and the imaginations of their readers. Thus, the narrator does not know all the details of the fictitious city, only the one absolute: that the city is perfect in every way imaginable, save for the fact that its perfection and the happiness of its citizens depend on the suffering of one child. This condition is what makes the otherwise unrealistic, utopian city of Omelas realistic, according to the narrator. The narrator serves as a bridge between the world of Omelas and the world of the audience, first guiding the reader into the city, then guiding the reader to compare Omelas to their own moral universe.

The Narrator Quotes in The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas

The The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas quotes below are all either spoken by The Narrator or refer to The Narrator. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Individual vs Society Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Orion edition of The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas published in 2015.
The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas Quotes

Joyous! How is one to tell about joy? How to describe the citizens of Omelas? They were not simple folk, you see, though they were happy. But we do not say the words of cheer much any more. All smiles have become archaic.

Related Characters: The Narrator (speaker)
Page Number: 256
Explanation and Analysis:

The trouble is that we have a bad habit, encouraged by pedants and sophisticates, of considering happiness as something rather stupid. Only pain is intellectual, only evil interesting. This is the treason of the artist: a refusal to admit the banality of evil and the terrible boredom of pain.

Related Characters: The Narrator (speaker)
Page Number: 257
Explanation and Analysis:

I think that there would be no cars or helicopters in and above the streets; this follows from the fact that the people of Omelas are happy people. Happiness is based on a just discrimination of what is necessary, what is neither necessary nor destructive, and what is destructive.

Related Characters: The Narrator (speaker)
Page Number: 257
Explanation and Analysis:

Let tambourines be struck above the copulations, and the glory of desire be proclaimed upon the gongs, and (a not unimportant point) let the offspring of these delightful rituals be beloved and looked after by all. One thing I know there is none of in Omelas is guilt.

Related Characters: The Narrator (speaker)
Page Number: 258
Explanation and Analysis:

A boundless and generous contentment, a magnanimous triumph felt not against some outer enemy but in communion with the finest and fairest in the souls of all men everywhere and the splendor of the world’s summer; this is what swells the hearts of the people of Omelas, and the victory they celebrate is that of life.

Related Characters: The Narrator (speaker)
Page Number: 258
Explanation and Analysis:

The people at the door never say anything, but the child, who has not always lived in the tool room, and can remember sunlight and its mother’s voice, sometimes speaks. “I will be good,” it says. “Please let me out. I will be good!” They never answer.

Related Characters: The Narrator (speaker), The Child
Page Number: 260
Explanation and Analysis:

They all know that it has to be there […] 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 […] depend wholly on this child’s abominable misery.

Related Characters: The Narrator (speaker), The Child
Page Number: 260
Explanation and Analysis:

“Those are the terms. To exchange all the goodness and grace of every life in Omelas for that single, small improvement: to throw away the happiness of thousands for the chance of the happiness of one; that would be to let guilt within the walls indeed.”

Related Characters: The Narrator (speaker), The Child
Page Number: 261
Explanation and Analysis:

Their tears at the bitter injustice dry when they begin to perceive the terrible justice of reality, and to accept it.

Related Characters: The Narrator (speaker), The Child
Page Number: 261
Explanation and Analysis:

They leave Omelas, they walk ahead into the darkness, and they do not come back. The place they go towards is a place even less imaginable to most of us than the city of happiness. I cannot describe it at all. It is possible that it does not exist.

Related Characters: The Narrator (speaker), The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas
Related Symbols: The Darkness
Page Number: 262
Explanation and Analysis:
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The Narrator Character Timeline in The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas

The timeline below shows where the character The Narrator appears in The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas
Imagination and Allegory Theme Icon
Happiness and Suffering Theme Icon
The narrator pauses to contemplate the difficulty of describing a city of happiness to an audience conditioned... (full context)
Imagination and Allegory Theme Icon
Happiness and Suffering Theme Icon
The narrator clarifies the nature of the city’s happiness. The citizens of Omelas are happy, but not... (full context)
Imagination and Allegory Theme Icon
Happiness and Suffering Theme Icon
Still, the narrator worries that Omelas may strike the reader as too perfect, too strictly adherent to rules... (full context)
Imagination and Allegory Theme Icon
Happiness and Suffering Theme Icon
“I thought at first there were not drugs” in Omelas, the narrator writes, “but that is puritanical.” Thus, the narrator supposes, there is an ecstasy-inducing drug named... (full context)
Individual vs Society Theme Icon
Coming of Age and Coming into Society Theme Icon
Imagination and Allegory Theme Icon
The narrator returns to the Festival of Summer. The parades of people have mostly reached the fields... (full context)
Individual vs Society Theme Icon
Coming of Age and Coming into Society Theme Icon
Happiness and Suffering Theme Icon
...child, the child begs the people who visit it for release, promising to “be good.” The narrator reveals that the child used to scream and cry constantly, but after years of neglect,... (full context)
Individual vs Society Theme Icon
Coming of Age and Coming into Society Theme Icon
Happiness and Suffering Theme Icon
...delight of Omelas” to “wither and be destroyed.” There is no way around this predicament. The narrator states that “the terms are strict and absolute,” though they never state why this is... (full context)
Individual vs Society Theme Icon
Coming of Age and Coming into Society Theme Icon
Happiness and Suffering Theme Icon
...it takes weeks, for others, years, but eventually almost everyone comes to accept the predicament. The narrator runs through their reasoning: even if the child were released, it would not be able... (full context)
Individual vs Society Theme Icon
Coming of Age and Coming into Society Theme Icon
Happiness and Suffering Theme Icon
...of the child’s misery allows them to more deeply understand and appreciate their own happiness. The narrator assures the audience that “Theirs is no vapid, irresponsible happiness.” They understand that they are... (full context)
Imagination and Allegory Theme Icon
The narrator pauses to ask the audience if they believe in Omelas now, after learning about the... (full context)
Individual vs Society Theme Icon
Imagination and Allegory Theme Icon
...in total silence. These citizens walk into the darkness beyond Omelas and never come back. The narrator does not know where they go, for it is impossible to imagine—the place might not... (full context)