Have you ever wondered how two completely different stories can be linked together by only one word? In many cases the word could be different but we will be looking at the noun guilt. And what is guilt? Guilt is a feeling of worry and unhappiness because you have done something wrong, such as causing harm to another person. The first story is called “The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas” and the second one is called “Hills Like White Elephants”.
First we will look at what these stories are about and who wrote them. Then this essay will identify the theme of the two texts and look at why it is relevant to us. It will also provide examples and evidence from the chosen texts. This essay will also comment on the authorial choices made in the text. Towards the end this essay will compare and contrast the situations. The conclusion will include implications of the analysis explored in the essay.
“The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas” is a short story written by Ursula K Le Guin, who was an American author. At the beginning of her story, the reader is shown a very happy environment in a perfect Utopian world. “Omelas sounds in my words like a city in a fairy tale.”
This is how the narrator describes the world at the beginning. Little does the reader know the happy town has a dark secret. A young child is being kept locked away in a basement. The reader does not know the child’s age or gender so it is referred to as “it”. The child lives in misery. Every citizen learns about the child. Some decide to walk away from Omelas for good and some decide to stay and live with the knowledge that the child’s misery depends on their happiness.
The second story is called “Hills Like White Elephants”. This is also a short story, written by Ernest Hemingway who was an American journalist, novelist and writer. This story starts with a long description of the setting in a train station in Spain surrounded by hills. A man and a woman are waiting for a train to go to Madrid. They are in a heated conversation about the woman deciding to go and have an “operation”, in other words an abortion. “Well,” the man said, “if you don’t want to you don’t have to. I wouldn’t have you do it if you didn’t want to. But I know it’s perfectly simple.”
While the woman is leaning towards keeping the baby, the man is convinced she should go through with the abortion. Although he says he will support any decision she makes, it is very clear he does not want to become a father. As the man and woman bicker there are people all around them waiting for their train. At the end the man takes the luggage and they head towards the train as the man looks back at the station.
These stories have more in common than they seem. In both of these stories the people try to find happiness by having to make a life changing decision. The citizens from Omelas have having to live with the constant guilt of knowing a child is suffering for their happiness and in “Hills Like White Elephants” the woman deciding if she will bring a new life into the world or live with the guilt of aborting a child for her mistakes. And even if having the child, would she be able to give the child the life it deserves?
Now we have another quote from the story “The ones who walked away from Omelas” “One thing I know there is none of in Omelas is guilt.” This line is central to the moral challenge of the story. Citizens of Omelas are fully aware of how their city works. In the real world everyone tries to hide and deny the problems that their world is facing. Whereas in Omelas, they require everyone to see the child who suffers for them to stay happy. How does this lead to a place where, as the author says, there is no guilt? It happens two ways.
Most people who live there accept it and learn to live with it. They start out upset but learn to put their guilt aside. The others walk away forever. ‘I will be good,’ it says. ‘Please let me out. I will be good!’ This is the only line spoken by someone other than the narrator. This quote undercuts many of the narrator’s claims that he has stated at the beginning of the story. The narrator says the child is ‘feeble-minded,’ but in this speech we can see that the child knows its suffering and that it is not right.
Another quote that was quite important was this one. “You don’t have to be afraid. I’ve known lots of people that have done it.” “So have I,” said the girl. “And afterward they were all so happy.” Here we can see the man pursuing the women to get the abortion. He believes they could have everything including happiness and freedom if she decides to get the abortion. In his own way he is trying to manipulate her into getting an abortion, making her feel guilty if she doesn’t.
Both stories contain themes that are relevant today. The story “Hills Like White Elephants” talks about the issue of a woman being pregnant and not knowing what to do about it. Although it seems that the pregnancy is the main theme in the story, it is also a great representative of how ones decision can be so heavily impacted by another person.
This story is relevant to today’s world because it shows us what the decision making is like. It is not an easy decision and there is no right or wrong thing to do. The decision is not only made by the woman but by people around. Society pressures you to have a happy life even though they are always judging. The woman in this story is being judged by the man which is very common even in today’s society. Women are also pressured for example by their families.
Now looking a the other story. You may think that the story “The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas” may not seem relevant to today’s society but it is. Even though it is not given as an exact example like in the other text, this story is more of a metaphor to problems in today’s society. The suffering child represents someone who is not as fortunate, successful or good enough in our society. People around have the option to help but by helping it could take away their accomplishments and hard work.
Both of these stories show us great problems of decision making but both authors make different choices when writing. In “Hills Like White Elephants” the author does not tell the story in a traditional manner but instead gives the reader clues about what is going on and what the characters look like. We know nothing about the man and the woman’s background. That makes the reader think and assume things about the main characters.
But Hemingway completely removes himself from this story so readers are not completely aware of what is going on. On the other hand, the author gives us a lot of description about the citizens, how they live and where they are from. We know how the world they live in works and we get a lot of description.
In conclusion I think that these stories have a lot in common with today’s society. Both of the stories show the universal feeling of guilt even in different circumstances. What I found interesting was that even in completely different situations, guilt can come very easily. These stories both showcased important issues in a way that it is fun for the reader to read. They are stories that make a reader think not just about the fictional characters but also about how people act in today’s world.