The darkness beyond Omelas symbolizes humanity’s unrealized political possibilities. Even in Omelas, the city of happiness, society cannot function without part of the population suffering (even if that “part” is just one person). In Omelas, this is taken to the extreme: one child must suffer for the rest of the city’s citizens. In imagining a society such as Omelas, Le Guin suggests that humanity has yet to create a truly just society in which no person or group of people must serve as a scapegoat—the unlucky object of others’ ugliest desires and impulses. Thus, Le Guin reminds the readers that, even in their wildest imaginations, they cannot conceive of a society that is not founded on unjust suffering. It is likewise impossible for the narrator to describe the destination of the ones who walk away from Omelas as anything other than “darkness.” Thus, the darkness beyond Omelas symbolizes the impossibility of imagining any alternative to a society in which the happiness of some is predicated on the suffering of others.
The Darkness Quotes in The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas
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.