“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. But they seem to know where they are going, the ones who walk away from Omelas” (4).
This passage is at the very end of the story, when the narrator describes the few in the city of Omelas who see the suffering child and decide to leave forever. This quote is especially significant because it contains the only sentence which is a direct reference to the title of the story.
Much of the description throughout the story illustrates the citizens and surroundings inside of Omelas, detailing it as an insanely, endlessly happy place. The major twist occurs when the author reveals that, for some reason, the blissful state of the city and everyone in it relies solely on the continued suffering of one child locked in a broom closet. Everyone knows the child is there, but no one is allowed to speak to or help the child because “all the prosperity and beauty and delight of Omelas would wither and be destroyed” (3). It is here that the first major moral red flag is raised; these people know that the only reason they are living in paradise is because one child is suffering, and it could be argued that by doing nothing to help the child, each individual citizen is hurting them.
I chose the above quote because I think it is also worth specifically discussing those who decide to leave Omelas. These people create an interesting dynamic because they are so overcome with guilt over the child that they feel they cannot reap the benefits of their suffering, yet they do nothing to help the child. I believe they leave instead of helping him because they do not want the responsibility of upsetting the vibes inside the city, but what difference does it really make for them if they are to leave anyway? Perhaps, out of fear, they leave things the way they are so they are not mobbed by an entire population of suddenly angry people. Or, maybe it’s not their place to decide whether the combined mild suffering of many is worth relieving the intense suffering of one individual.
Are the ones who leave Omelas knowing about the child any better than those who know and stay? Why don’t they rescue the child before they flee?