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The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas 
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Suzanne and Geo,

I can understand your association with homeless people and poor people in general to this story, but I feel that there is a distinction between the child and those who "choose" to be homeless or drug addicts in this society. First of all, our lives are not all perfect because they have been locked in a closet against their will, secondly, they (for the most part) can transcend their choices in life, no matter how difficult that might seem. There is a degree of social injustice that keeps people in a bad situation, but at a certain point we have to say that they are no longer scapegoats but willing participants in their choice to be in their situation.



Mon Aug 24, 2009 2:14 pm
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poettess wrote:
Suzanne and Geo,

I can understand your association with homeless people and poor people in general to this story, but I feel that there is a distinction between the child and those who "choose" to be homeless or drug addicts in this society. First of all, our lives are not all perfect because they have been locked in a closet against their will, secondly, they (for the most part) can transcend their choices in life, no matter how difficult that might seem. There is a degree of social injustice that keeps people in a bad situation, but at a certain point we have to say that they are no longer scapegoats but willing participants in their choice to be in their situation.


Yes, that's a good point. The child in this story has no choice to stay or go. He/she remains a prisoner by the will of the townspeople. Which, in my opinion, makes the townspeople's acceptance even more appalling.

Anyway, I just went to the Wikipedia site about this story and did you know this story is subtitled, "Variations on a theme by William James?" Apparently LeGuin got the idea for this story from James' The Moral Philosopher and the Moral Life.

William James wrote:
Or if the hypothesis were offered us of a world in which Messrs. Fourier's and Bellamy's and Morris's utopias should all be outdone, and millions kept permanently happy on the one simple condition that a certain lost soul on the far-off edge of things should lead a life of lonely torture, what except a specifical and independent sort of emotion can it be which would make us immediately feel, even though an impulse arose within us to clutch at the happiness so offered, how hideous a thing would be its enjoyment when deliberately accepted as the fruit of such a bargain?


http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Ones_W ... rom_Omelas


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Post Omelas
Poettess:

I agree with you for the most part. Adults do have the capability to choose their path in life. Drug addicts certainly choose, no one forces them. I also agree that their are many people who refuse to help themselves. I'll go one step farther and say, many people feel comfortable standing with their hands out waiting for society to pay their way.

The part I disagree with is that a good percentage of the homeless suffer from mental illness, and for one reason or another have been thrown on the street without any choices or chances. Most of the mentally ill homeless can't and won't take advantage of the soup kitchens and shelters. Many homeless men are former vets with disabilities, who have been thrown away. These people are incapable of transending their lives, they are at the mercy of society, and society for the most part, gauk at them, view them with distain, shake their heads and walk off.

The author choose to use a child, which really hit the point home. Many, many children suffer, the agencies and services that are meant to protect children oftentimes fail. There have been countless cases of children who have died because of the incompetance of these agencies. But, human suffering can be seen in our society in both children and aldults.

Anyway, Geo, thank you for reciprecating on the research! Very interesting.



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geo wrote:
A couple of interesting things I noticed. The story doesn't really have a plot or, at least, not a conventional plot. It starts out simply as description of a town called Omelas and the people in it. However, as this description unfolds, the narrator/storyteller adds details that add tension to the story. Initially, Omelas seems a utopia and there is some kind of festival or celebration about to take place and all the townspeople are getting ready for it. But with one revelation we understand that there is quite a steep price to the townspeople's happiness.


The other interesting thing that the narrator does is to draw the reader into the story - make him or her a conarrator and thus a sort of co-conspirator in the plight of child and the world of Omelas.

Quote:
Perhaps it would be best if you imagined it as your own fancy bids, assuming it will rise to the occasion, for certainly I cannot suit you all.


Quote:
But even granted trains, I fear that Omelas so far strikes some of you as goody-goody. Smiles, bells, parades, horses, bleh. If so, please add an orgy. If an orgy would help, don’t hesitate.


Quote:
I thought at first there were no drugs, but that is puritanical. For those who like it, the faint insistent sweetness of drooz may perfume the ways of the city, drooz which first brings a great lightness and brilliance to the mind and limbs, and then after some hours a dreamy languor, and wonderful visions at last of the very arcane and inmost secrets of the Universe, as well as exciting the pleasure of sex beyond all belief; and it is not habit-forming. For more modest tastes I think there ought to be beer. What else, what else belongs in the joyous city?



geo wrote:
In a way this isn't a story at all, but a kind of moral dilemma or thought experiment. ... We can't resolve the inequity that exists in our world. We have to live with it and how we deal with that is we just don't think about it very much.


I agree with you that this is an experiment in thought and philosophy or morality if you will. I think it hits home so hard becuase the reader has become so personally entangled in creating Omelas.

I also agree that this is a morality "play" for our own society. In order to make certain, that there is true happiness with no bitter aftertaste, we need to be able to take care of everyone who wishes to be cared for. We need the people who can work to do so. We need to be more aware of our impact on the people around us.


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Tue Aug 25, 2009 10:57 am
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Post Re: The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas
I just started teaching English Composition at a local community college. I inherited the class from an instructor who moved on to other things. Anyway, I just decided to change the second major assignment from an Op-Ed to a literary analysis. And I'm trying to decide which fiction story to use. The three contenders are: The Lottery by Shirley Jackson, The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas by Ursula Le Guin, and The Devil by Leo Tolstoy. I thought I would mention it here since this is where I discovered Le Guin's story. It would be interesting to do a compare/contrast of Jackson's and Le Guin's stories, but probably I'll just settle on one. I just can't decide which. Any suggestions?


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Post Re: The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas
Hello Geo!!!!!! I've missed you!

geo wrote:
I just started teaching English Composition at a local community college.


Oh, I'm so jealous!

geo wrote:
It would be interesting to do a compare/contrast of Jackson's and Le Guin's stories, but probably I'll just settle on one. I just can't decide which. Any suggestions?


Well, I can tell you what I did while taking an English class. I compared and contrasted; "The Lottery", Jackson, "A Worn Path", Welty, and "The Rocking Horse Winner", Lawrence. Each of these stories illustrates compelling behavior and sacrifice, a great comparison. But, the motives for the compelling behavior and sacrifice can be easily contrasted.

Le Guin's story of sacrifice is very simular to the sacrifice in "The Lottery". What is best for the community. I don't see a clear contrast between the two. Le Guin's story is excellent, and has not been worn out, its a good choice. But, I would consider pairing it with either, "A Worn Path", where the sacrifice is personal, and selfless as opposed to selfish which you see in both Le Guin and Jackson. In "The Rocking Horse Winner", again, you see a personal sacrifice that is selfless. Also, "The Rocking Horse Winner" is about a child making the sacrifice by choice, which is a clear contrast to "The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas", however, a child is involved in both, creating a strong comparison.

Oh, please do tell what you decide!



Sat Jul 17, 2010 6:06 pm
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Post Re: The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas
Suzanne wrote:
Hello Geo!!!!!! I've missed you!


I've missed hanging around. I go through stages where I'm not online much. I wonder what I do with all that extra time. :lol:

Suzanne wrote:
Well, I can tell you what I did while taking an English class. I compared and contrasted; "The Lottery", Jackson, "A Worn Path", Welty, and "The Rocking Horse Winner", Lawrence. Each of these stories illustrates compelling behavior and sacrifice, a great comparison. But, the motives for the compelling behavior and sacrifice can be easily contrasted.

Le Guin's story of sacrifice is very simular to the sacrifice in "The Lottery". What is best for the community. I don't see a clear contrast between the two. Le Guin's story is excellent, and has not been worn out, its a good choice. But, I would consider pairing it with either, "A Worn Path", where the sacrifice is personal, and selfless as opposed to selfish which you see in both Le Guin and Jackson. In "The Rocking Horse Winner", again, you see a personal sacrifice that is selfless. Also, "The Rocking Horse Winner" is about a child making the sacrifice by choice, which is a clear contrast to "The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas", however, a child is involved in both, creating a strong comparison.

Oh, please do tell what you decide!


These are fantastic points, Suzanne. I can't tell you how much I appreciate your feedback. I'm a bit overwhelmed with this, my first class ever. Believe it or not, this class had been taught by this particular instructor with no literary element. Most of my students are either going into nursing or some other health-related field. They are not drawn to English Composition, although I think I've done a pretty good job convincing them of the importance of knowing how to write competently, regardless of one's profession. This class was set up to do an Op-Ed for the second writing assignment, but there wasn't much enthusiasm for it and I decided to heck with it, we're going to analyze a short story.

I love your suggestion to compare/contrast Rocking Horse Winner and The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas. This would be fantastic. It almost writes itself, doesn't it? On the other hand, I wonder if it would be easier for them to write about one particular story. Or give them a choice between analyzing one story or comparing/contrasting two? I'll keep musing on this. I have to decide in the next day or two.

Tell me, was this assignment of yours for Freshman English Comp? Was it a four-year institution? Thanks again.


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Post Re: The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas
I re-read this story 30 years after I read it as a teenager and I cried and cried. Nevil Shute's novel, A Town Like Alice has some of this pathos.



Sat Jul 17, 2010 7:47 pm
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Post Re: The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas
English Comp. 102

Community college, two year degree

geo wrote:
On the other hand, I wonder if it would be easier for them to write about one particular story. Or give them a choice between analyzing one story or comparing/contrasting two?


Compare/contrast of two stories may be easier than analyzing just one. It gives the student more to work with.

Good luck to you Geo, and good luck to your students!



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Post Re: The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas
To Suzanne and anyone else who is interested:

I ended up assigning The Lottery. I wanted to keep the assignment simple and yet one that forces the student to think deeply about the story in terms of its literary elements. My students have a very basic grasp of how fiction works. Hopefully this assignment will help them understand. It was amusing to hear their reactions to the story. They were clearly shocked by the story and most of them didn't get it at all.

Here's how I assigned the essay:


Assignment 2 - Literary Analysis

Write an academic essay of 3–5 pages (850–1400 words) that analyzes and interprets one or more elements of Shirley Jackson’s short story, The Lottery.

To help develop your interpretation, you should include research from at least one but no more than three reliable resources. These sources may provide information on story elements—plot, point of view, character, setting, and symbols—as well as interpretations of the text, or the social or cultural moment in which the text was created. You may also incorporate a critical work, such as a scholarly essay, or a review.

A successful essay will have a strong thesis, logical organization, and a clear discussion that explores deeply a limited number of points that interpret Jackson’s story. The discussion should include quotations, summary, and paraphrasing from the short story. In addition, the essay should have an introduction, conclusion, appropriate point of view and tone, as well as be largely free of surface errors. Please note: A successful essay will not rely largely on plot summary nor will it be simply a review of the text. As with the other assignments in this course, the GS 120 Competency Rubric will act as the grading instrument for this essay.

Dates:

Prewriting is due in class July 27.

The first draft is due in class on July 29. Bring at least 3 copies for members of your group.

Second draft is due in class on Aug. 3.

Final draft is due in class on Aug. 5.

Suggestions:

Literary analysis is a way of deepening your understanding and appreciation of literature. The process of literary analysis is no different from any other kind of analysis: you divide the whole into parts. Once the parts are separated and considered singly, you will find it easier to study them. An analysis of literature is often broken down into a discussion of one or more of the following elements: plot, point of view, character, setting, symbols, irony, and style.

For more information on literary analysis see this web site:
http://www.unc.edu/depts/wcweb/handouts/literature.html

This academic essay should be written in the third person.

AUDIENCE: Your reader is someone who has already read the piece. Do NOT use the literary analysis to tell the reader what happens in the story. Use what happens in the story to support your analysis. So, don't give the reader a summary - they've already read the piece.

PURPOSE: Your purpose in this composition is to convince your reader that your analysis is an accurate one. You are to analyze objectively, supporting all your general statements with direct references or direct quotes from the piece.

THESIS STATEMENT: Your thesis statement will be what you plan to prove through your analysis and must include the element of literature that you have chosen.

INTRODUCTION: Mention both the name of the title and the name of its author in your introduction. The title should be in italics. Be sure the thesis statement will compel the reader to read on and is the last sentence in your introduction.

CONCLUSION: Mention both the title and the author’s name in your conclusion. Restate your thesis and mention the element discussed in the paper.

QUOTATION: DO quote directly from the work. You are required to use a minimum of 3 quotes from the work itself. However, don’t overuse direct quotes. Make sure to look at APA examples so you can properly implement this practice.

More on thesis:
A formula for the most basic analysis thesis could look something like this: 
In (title of poem/novel/play), (author's name) uses (1st literary device), (2nd literary device), and (3rd literary device) to (show/criticize/explain/etc.) (some aspect of human nature).

Notice that the second part of such a thesis (beginning with "to") identifies the theme of the passage, which will be the focus of the analysis. An example of this type of simple thesis is: 
In "If you Were Coming in the Fall," Emily Dickinson uses simile, diction, and syntax to describe how people wait, hoping to fall in love.

If all you do in one body paragraph is give a few examples of irony from the text and simply identify them as irony, then you haven't analyzed anything. The analysis part involves explaining how those examples are irony and how they help to communicate the theme of the passage. But to be sophisticated in your analysis, you must have ideas that are "in-depth"—not just the superficial facts of what you see on the page. You must interpret what the author has given you to work with and show that you understand the theme and show how it ties in with your thesis.


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Mon Jul 26, 2010 9:53 am
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Post Re: The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas
Thanks for sharing Geo.

I think you picked a great story, especially if most of the class has not read it before. I like the way you have your class in groups, your students will learn more about the piece by discussing it.

Your instructions are very clear, they should all get A's !



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Post Re: The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas
Resurrecting another old thread.

A powerful and memorable story, I was introduced to it as an argument against utilitarianism



Fri Dec 17, 2010 7:21 pm
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Post Re: The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas
I agree with Suzanne, geo. It appears you're giving these students the structure they'll need to complete the assignment. I will say, having had the same type of teaching experience quite a ways back, that it's one of the more challenging settings for teaching literature. The preparation kids get in high school can be shockingly minimal.



Fri Dec 17, 2010 10:48 pm
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Post Re: The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas
DWill wrote:
I agree with Suzanne, geo. It appears you're giving these students the structure they'll need to complete the assignment. I will say, having had the same type of teaching experience quite a ways back, that it's one of the more challenging settings for teaching literature. The preparation kids get in high school can be shockingly minimal.


Thanks, DWilll. I just finished another semester and, sadly, I've had to leave out the fiction element altogether. This is English Composition, not a literature course. Teaching The Lottery was a lot of fun and a good introduction into literary elements. However, there is a dark side that I didn't mention before. Since there is so much available about The Lottery online, some students are tempted to plagiarize. I only had six students during that one semester, and two of them gave me obviously plagiarized material. I caught it in an early draft with one student. I told her she was certainly capable of coming up with her own interpretation of the story, and she did. The other student didn't show up for the draft workshops and I didn't find out until her final draft, which was plagiarized almost verbatim from an online source. I found it with one Google search. There was nothing I could do at that point except to give her a '0'. She failed the course and probably dropped out of college altogether. These particular students were not very computer literate and it was easy to find them out. But someone who is even somewhat competent can easily get away with it. The fact is, there are numerous websites now that offer essays that are undetectable, even if the college has invested in plagiarism software.

For English Comp, the students are expected to write three major essays that are argumentative and interpretive. So they have to come up with a thesis and make an argument. I have to stress constantly that they must think for themselves and use resources to back up their arguments. I also say, ad nauseum, that their own voice will get lost if they rely too much on research. And that's the major challenge at this point. I'll stay stay away from any kind of assignment where there's an abundance of cheat essays available because the temptation is too great for these students. English Comp has a high failure rate as it is. As you say, many students have had shockingly little writing experience and when they come into my class I make them write a lot. But probably 10-20 percent of them will fail the first time around. I think that's pretty consistent with colleges everywhere.

I might still bring back The Lottery or The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas and make it an in-class essay. I think that would work and it would be fun. My one mistake is having them read and discuss only The Lottery. Many of these students have never even read a short story before. So I think it would be beneficial for them to read and discuss two or three stories and let them get a feel for how fiction works. One of my students that semester said she was angry at me for making her read The Lottery. She had never come across anything like it in her life and didn't even really understand the story at first. The idea of using a metaphor to illustrate certain elements of the human condition was completely foreign to her. But at the end of the semester after writing about the story and fine-tuning her ideas through several drafts, she said she appreciated having to read it. It changed her.

Okay, that's enough rambling for now.


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Post Re: The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas
Wow, you said a lot about education. I think that treating writing as a practical art is probably the way it's mostly approached now, with literature being left for the literature classes--which probably few students want to take. But it's too bad this is the way it is, because no one can write well without a subject in which to become both passionately and intellectually involved. Literature provides those subjects better than anything else.

I remember when I first was a GTA in grad school and writing as a process was just becoming the new way to teach. At the time, the reason was that students grow more as writers if they let their ideas progress in stages, with feedback from peers and the teacher along the way. I thought it was a great way to approach the craft, but I also found that a certain special talent in the teacher seemed to be needed to make it work well. That either took a lot of practice to acquire or I didn't have it. But another advantage of that approach turned out later to be that it helped thwart cheaters, since you could spot from a mile away the "first draft" that came from the paper mill.

I sound curmudgeonly when I say it, but the personal computer, the internet, and all the social media seem to have depressed our ability to sit with a piece of paper (or in front of a screen) and communicate thought.

It's really tough to maintain a standard when it seems that in the students you're getting, the highest level would be about a "C." The human tendency is to make that the new "A" and to let the really deficient writers get by with a C. Doesn't help anybody. A couple of times I taught community college comp 101 classes in an urban setting in which many students spoke English as a second language. Those students had been through remedial courses, but they still simply lacked the experience with the language that would enable them to write good English prose. It was disheartening to have to give them low grades; they really couldn't understand why I had to do that. Even so, I passed many that I shouldn't have.



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