A Comparison of the Lottery and the Ones who Walk Away from Omelasa

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The concept that it is understandable for one person to suffer for the benefit of others has been the subject of many books and stories. Examples include “The Lottery” by Shirley Jackson, where a yearly assembly is held to determine a villager who will be stoned to death by the others, and “The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas” by Ursula K. Le Guin. In the latter, in order for the town of Omelas to live happily and prosper, one little boy must live unhappily, locked in a broom closet.

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The same theme is used in both short stories. However, differences can be easily explained when one examines the authors’ backgrounds. Two people with disparate backgrounds would likely hold drastically different points of view on social issues. The cruelty exacted upon each victim in these narratives varies according to how the authors themselves were treated by their communities. In “The Lottery,” the victim is stoned to death by neighbors, individuals she knows, despite their unawareness of the ritual’s significance. This is reminiscent of the rejection Jackson faced from those who called her a witch and discredited her work simply because they couldn’t understand it. Having experienced considerable adversity, Jackson could express these harsh conditions more adeptly in her work. Conversely, in “Omelas,” people do nothing to harm the boy and everyone understands why he must remain in his unfortunate circumstance.

This reality remains distressing. However, given Ursula K. Le Guin’s reputation for kindness and popularity, she couldn’t justify inflicting further harm on the boy by writing a harsher narrative. She simply couldn’t, or felt too sympathetic towards him. Though both authors tell of divergent societal norms in various towns, people still accept the scapegoat—only minor moral details diverge. In the beginning of both stories, all inhabitants seem happy. In “Omelas,” a boy plays music, kids play outside. In “The Lottery,” boys run around gathering stones and chatting about school. Everyone continues their usual occupations, their usual jokes. Yet, in Omelas, they are aware of the boy in the broom closet, unfed and in poor condition. In “The Lottery,” they know by day’s end, a friend or family member will be stoned to death. Despite this knowledge, nobody tries to help in either story. The only distinction lies in the reaction of Omelas’s inhabitants—after witnessing the boy’s conditions, some leave and never return, while everyone in the lottery’s town remains.

Even the literary genres reveal another difference between Jackson and Le Guin. In “The Lottery,” the author utilizes foreshadowing to build suspense. From the start, it is clear that the story will have a dramatic tone which is in stark contrast to the fairytale-like tone of “The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas.” Additionally, Jackson employs a third-person objective perspective in her narration, offering a more limited view of the story as if she doesn’t want us to get too close to the characters. On the other hand, Le Guin chose a mix of first-person and third-person omniscient perspectives, making the reader feel involved in the story as if the narrator is personally addressing them. Our reactions to the concept of scapegoating will obviously differ based on our upbringing, the people around us, and our living conditions, much like these two divergent authors and their characters.

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A Comparison of the Lottery and the Ones Who Walk Away from Omelasa. (2022, Nov 16). Retrieved from https://papersowl.com/examples/a-comparison-of-the-lottery-and-the-ones-who-walk-away-from-omelasa/