The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas

by

Ursula K. Le Guin

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The Darkness Symbol Analysis

The Darkness Symbol Icon

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

The The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas quotes below all refer to the symbol of The Darkness. 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

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 Darkness Symbol Timeline in The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas

The timeline below shows where the symbol The Darkness 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
Individual vs Society Theme Icon
Coming of Age and Coming into Society Theme Icon
Happiness and Suffering Theme Icon
In a dark, windowless room in a basement beneath one of the city’s public buildings lives a malnourished... (full context)
Individual vs Society Theme Icon
Imagination and Allegory Theme Icon
...only do by leaving the city, alone, in total silence. These citizens walk into the darkness beyond Omelas and never come back. The narrator does not know where they go, for... (full context)