Introduction: Dystopian Stories by Jackson and Le Guin
The short stories, which represent a genre of utopian fiction, give the reader an opportunity to immerse himself/herself in the study of societies based on totalitarian principles and concealing controlled regimes behind the visible general happiness. Therefore, two stories, namely “The Lottery” by Shirley Jackson and “The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas” by Ursula Le Guin, offer the plots revealing the price of common well-being and traditions, hiding human sins under the guise of proper existence. Thereupon, speaking of the plot, “The Lottery” tells the story of a society of an unnamed village, which participates in a lottery, at the end of which a crowd stones the chosen resident (Jackson).
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The other story also reveals the theme of specific rituals that form the morality of the community. It describes people who cannot accept the fact that the happiness of the members of their society depends on a child who is forced to suffer cruel torment alone (Le Guin). Thus, the dystopian stories written by Jackson and Le Guin suggest exploring the theme of sacrifice, rituals, and controlled norms that provide the imaginary perfection of social order but hide the hopelessness, pain, and absurdity.
Comparison of the “The Lottery” by Jackson and “The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas” by Le Guin
Analysis of the stories written by Jackson and Le Guin allows one to plunge into the seemingly perfect worlds, where everyone becomes a victim of artificially created morality, and find many common ideas. First of all, both stories reveal the horrors hidden in utopian communities, describing the suffering of the inhabitants and the cruel consequences of their social rules. Moreover, Jackson and Le Guin single out one person, namely a woman and a child, as a sacrifice for the welfare of others, describing the agony that these characters have to endure. In the end, despite the differences in the plots, the conflict of the morality of the majority and the sufferings of the units is a red line in the works of both authors.
Similar approaches, literary techniques, and the development of plots, which the authors use, can reveal the depressing truth of the essence of life under total control. Hence, Jackson and Le Guin begin their narrations with descriptions of auspicious places that bring people together by a special event. Le Guin gathers her characters to celebrate “the Festival of Summer,” while in “The Lottery,” the society prepares for the traditional participation in a mysterious lottery (Le Guin para. 1, Jackson para. 1).
At that time, both authors begin stories with a positive description of the villages, creating a pleasant impression of the inhabitants. For example, “flowers bloom profusely” at the beginning of “The Lottery,” while the parade in Omelas rushes “between old moss-grown gardens and under avenues of trees,” creating a colorful setting (Jackson para.1, Le Guin para.1). People laugh and are inspired, which gives hope for positive endings. In this regard, the reader is immersed in a positive atmosphere, waiting for the development of solemn events in both cases.
However, “The Lottery” and “The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas” get further a sharp turn in the development of the plot, revealing the horrors that are the payment of the peace and joy of the communities. Thus, the traditions and habits of the inhabitants of both fictional locations reflect the anti-utopian nature of their lives. It turns out that people from the village take part in voting about who will be stoned to death. As a result, Mrs. Hutchinson is a victim who suddenly realizes that “it isn’t fair, it isn’t right”; however, people kill her (Jackson para. 79).
As for the short story written by Le Guin, she does not talk about the murder, the society’s cruelty has a different nature. It turns out that a lonely and unhappy child spends his or her life in one of the dirty basements of the city, but no one plans to release a child since overall happiness depends on his or her imprisonment (Le Guin para.5). Such a turn of plots is shocking, revealing the actual role of rituals that supposedly make communities strong and healthy, but in fact, one person goes through all the horrors for the sake of the carefree life of others.
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It is important to note that Jackson and Le Guin pay attention to the characters who try to break the vicious circle of regimes, but the outcome is different. Therefore, every inhabitant of Omelas knows about the existence of an unfortunate child who was locked up, however, his role in shaping the well-being of others does not allow them to attempt to free him or her. However, some residents, noticing the horrible position of a small human being, cannot withstand the established rules, leaving their city forever (Le Guin para.9).
On the other hand, Jackson’s characters do not strive to fight for a change of traditions, convinced of their morality. Only Tessie Hutchinson suddenly refuses to make a senseless sacrifice for the sake of her fellow citizens. Even though in the first case, people may refuse to participate in the general surrealistic approach to life, in the second case, the woman is doomed, the plots remain unchanged. Accordingly, the absurdity of the stories lies in the fact that the child will stay locked up, and another society will continue to stone their neighbors, acquaintances, and relatives, having no way of resisting the regimes.
A comparison of the dystopias “The Lottery” and “The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas” allows the reader to note that, despite the difference in plot lines and finals, the essence remains the same. Both societies function through the support of cruelty and the offering of victims as a basic morality, which provides visible stability and happiness for citizens. Thus, different experiences converge at one point, namely, unwillingness to resist the established norms for the sake of artificial calmness and the opportunity to be part of a thriving community.
Jackson, Shirley. “The Lottery (1948).” Web.
Le Guin, Ursula. “The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas.” The Wind’s Twelve Quarters: Short Stories. Web.