Ursula K. Le Guin
Symbols in Writing
“Symbolism is the language of the mysteries. By symbols men have ever sought to communicate to each other those thoughts which transcend the limitations of language” (Manly Hall). Symbols are found all around us and alter our perception based on how we view those symbols. Symbols can represent positive and negative messages. Authors can use symbols to create a story they picture in the minds of others.
Without symbolism of some kind, a story becomes nothing more than a two-dimensional series of “this-happened-then-that-happened” events. Symbolism, in its many forms, puts together all the different parts of a story into a whole, while adding intellectual depth and emotional resonance. Symbols are effective tools, when used consciously and with intention, to summarize a lot of information very quickly and to evoke powerful emotional responses.
It’s highly likely when writing fiction of a reasonable length, such as a longer short story or a novel, you’ll end up using symbolism without even knowing it. One of the reasons why symbolism is so powerful is that it’s a natural part of human cognition. Human brains, for the larger part, think symbolically. Symbolism is as naturally occurring a part of human communication as storytelling itself.
The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas is a story full of symbols. The author, Ursula K. Le Guin gives the reader the opportunity to put his or her own imagination into the story. The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas is based around the idea of a utopia. Since everyone pictures their own utopia different Le Guin allows the reader to add aspects to make the setting a utopia as the reader pictures it. Le Guin does not care how the reader pictures the utopia she just wants the reader to understand that the plot focuses around a perfect utopia. Le Guin was smart to allow the reader the freedom to include his or her own aspects of a utopia.
The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas by Ursula K. Le Guin is a story about a utopian society that is hiding a dark secret. This story is full of symbols to relate the story to our own personal lives. Everybody in the town is full of happiness, you would never think anything is wrong. In this I will be discussing the child as a symbol in the story.
When reading The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas the child locked away in the middle of the happy town reminded me much of the struggle of mental illness and how our society has a very hush, hush mentality when it comes to people who are struggling.
The child is the main symbol in the story. There is a child in the middle of this perfectly happy utopia that has been locked away without nourishment and who sits in his own filth. The child is locked away and everyone knows that the child is there suffering, yet nobody chooses to help. There is clearly an issue with people struggling from mental illness within our society. Like the boy, that struggle gets hidden away to fester on its own. It is very hard to find help for someone who is struggling with mental illness. Without getting help the problem only becomes worse.
As the child remains locked away he sits in his own filth to only become worse. As someone keeps their feeling hidden inside they only become worse and more prevalent, until it becomes too much to handle. Without receiving help the problem becomes worse overtime and causes harm to the person and others around the person. The town may seem happy but has a lot to hide. The child locked away causes to much guilt for some they simply just leave the Omelas. I think people leave because they can’t have the child on the back of their mind without doing anything to help. The guilt just drives them away from the town they know.
It is hard to understand how the people in the town can be that happy and guilt free knowing that there is an innocent child locked away in a dark cellar. It amazes me how people do not care that others are suffering. With some education our society can become more accepting to people who are struggling with mental illness. If society would be able to come together to spread hope and education on where to receive help the problem would not be as severe. We must stand together in order to eliminate this crisis once and for all.
The child as a symbol in Le Guin’s story can represent a number of different aspects of people’s lives. The child can be thought as something that is a dark part in life and because of that symbol others can compare some dark aspects of their life it the child which gives everyone a connection from the story to their own lives.
People have empathy toward the child. It is hard to imagine that anybody does not feel the pain and suffering the child is living in. this gives the readers a basis of where the child is coming from. Children should not live in the situation as the one in the story. Many people fell empathy towards the child and understand that the child in the middle of the utopia shows how that heavy weight of guilt some of the people face is too much and in the end drives some people away from the Omelas.
Symbolism throughout “The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas" is displayed throughout the child’s suffering that is locked up underneath the city. This symbolizes injustice and causes the narrator to describe the people leaving Omelas due to this inhumane activity of torturing the child. Some of Omelas tends to understand their prosperity is cause and effect of the child’s misery. Without the child’s misery, Omelas would not be the utopian society the narrator describes it as. The narrator mentions the amount of people that leave Omelas when they find out about the child, this goes to show the reader those people had what it took to leave such a happy place when finding out about the misery that was brought to the child.
The story does not end with the child. The narrator goes on to talk about people who leave Omelas. The narrator seems to describe them as leaving because they do not support the happiness at the expense of the child (235). They leave behind the happiness of the town. They go to somewhere near impossible to imagine (235).
The narrator seems to be supportive of these people. As, the narrator describes them as confident. The narrator said that, though the place is unimaginable, “they seem to know where they are going” (235). These people seem to be symbolic of people in real life who do not ignore those worse off. So, the author is likely supportive who those are supportive of the often-ignored people are not well off.
Not only can we see the author’s use of symbols is relevant to the child but also towards those who walk away. The child represents the darkness that impacts our lives. The author is in support for those who are able to be deviant and go against others commands for one own well-being.
Le Guin uses symbols in her story to create a well-rounded piece focusing on struggle and those who get away from the struggle. The people who walk away from the Omelas are judged for their decision but ultimately don’t have to feel weighed down by the pressure of others to live a perfect life full of guilt.
Symbols can really impact how the reader interprets the story. Without the symbols involved in this story we would not understand the true meaning of the story. The symbols allow for the reader to use previous experiences from the reading to provide a deeper meaning behind the piece. Authors intentionally use the symbols to influence how the readers comprehend the storyline.
When you are creating a piece such as a story it can be hard to make out what you desire to put out there. When writing you have an image of what you expect your story to convey and how you want to present this information. Symbolism gives the freedom to add intense emotion into stories. Readers take past experiences and add the emotion that was felt into the story to create a stronger and lasting meaning. Symbolism gives authors a way to add in a deeper meaning by showing emotion that the characters face.
Le Guin, Ursula K. “The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas.” Backpack Literature: An Introduction to Fiction, Poetry, Drama, and Writing. Pearson, 2016, 230-235.