The Lottery and The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas are two famous stories that explore the theme of societal morality. While both take place in dystopian societies, they differ in several key ways.
The Lottery is set in a small town where residents engage in a ritualistic tradition called “the lottery.” Every year, one member of the community is chosen at random to be stoned to death as a sacrifice to ensure good crops and weather for the coming season. Despite its violent nature, most townspeople go about their daily lives as if nothing out of the ordinary is happening.
By contrast, The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas takes place in an idyllic city where life seems perfect on the surface. However, this utopia is built on the suffering of a single child who is kept in squalor and isolation. The child is never seen by anyone and only exists to remind the citizens of Omelas of the cost of their happiness.
While both stories deal with difficult topics, they differ in how they explore morality. The Lottery focuses on the idea of sacrifice, while The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas examines what it means to be complicit in an unjust system. In the end, both stories leave readers with a lot to think about regarding the delicate balance between good and evil in society.
When comparing “The Lottery” by Shirley Jackson to “The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas” by Ursula K. Le Guin, the minor variations seem in comparison to their shared settings, symbols, and theme. Each tale begins with a description of a gorgeous summer day. In “The Lottery,” the following is true: The flowers were blooming profusely and the grass was richly green (para 1), which is comparable to old moss-grown gardens and under avenues of trees (para 1) in….Omelas.”
Both “The Lottery” and “The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas” contain dark, foreboding symbols that hint at the underlying theme of each story. The characters in both stories engage in seemingly innocent or even joyous activities that are later revealed to be quite sinister.
In “The Lottery,” for example, the townspeople gather together for a seemingly joyful occasion – but this celebration quickly turns into a violent festival that is ultimately motivated by violence and cruelty. Similarly, in “Omelas,” the residents celebrate the city’s prosperity and happiness with a parade accompanied by cheerful music – yet we soon learn that their happiness comes at a terrible price.
Despite these similarities, there are also some key differences between the two stories. Perhaps the most significant difference is the ending. In “The Lottery,” the ending is quite ambiguous – it’s unclear whether or not the townspeople will continue to participate in the lottery after the events of the story.
In contrast, “The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas” has a much more definitive ending. The title itself tells us that there will be some who choose to leave Omelas, and we see this happen at the end of the story. This highlights one of the key themes in “Omelas” – that happiness can only exist when there is suffering somewhere else.
There are also numerous townspeople in both tales. “….Omelas has music, dance, and special clothing worn at the gathering, whereas The Lottery’s women show up “wearing old house dresses and sweaters.” Although Le Guin’s setting appears to be more festive, all of the people in both stories are congregating for what appears to be enjoyable, even joyful occasions. However, I believe that the major parallel is that these many pleasant elements build a veneer over each narrative.
The Lottery and The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas are both thought-provoking stories that explore the human nature of violence, morality, and sacrifice. Both stories take place in small towns where the people seem to live peaceful lives. However, beneath this facade lies a dark secret: in The Lottery, citizens gather each year for a ritualistic stoning; in The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas, an innocent child is sacrificed for the sake of happiness for all. Despite these disturbing similarities, there are also key differences between these two tales.
For example, while The Lottery focuses on an annual event, The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas describes a permanent situation; similarly, The Lottery centers around a public, sanctioned killing, while The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas seems to imply that the sacrifice is made in secret. Ultimately, these stories highlight the moral ambiguity inherent in human nature and challenge us to examine our own views on violence and morality.
Both stories pay close attention to youngsters. Jacksonexpands our capacity to envision “their boisterous game” (para 2), and Le Guin portrays them as “high calls rising like swallows’ flightsthat fly over the music and the singing.” These children seem to epitomize states of happiness in both tales, and I think they are important necessities in each tale since they are educated and expected to continue their families’ traditions into the future.
The telling of stories (which is what folktales are) is inherently political, especially in the way that Todorova approaches them. She emphasizes how folklore has always been used to position people or groups into roles for significant issues without explicitly stating who these people or groups are. The tale’s hero does not seem to be a conventional protagonist; instead, he appears to act out of necessity rather than choice.
There are definite differences in the way children are treated in both stories. In “The Lottery,” the children seem to be completely unaware of what is happening, and they are not even given a choice in whether or not they participate. They are obedient and follow along with whatever the adults around them are doing. The children in “Omelas” appear to have more knowledge and agency than the children in “The Lottery.”
The child who is being sacrificed is given a choice, and the other children know about the sacrifice, although they are not old enough to fully understand it. There is also a difference in how the adults treat the children. In “The Lottery,” the adults seem to be very cold and distant towards their children, while the adults in “Omelas” seem to be more loving and caring.
Overall, there are a number of similarities and differences between the two stories. While both are focused on traditions that involve children, they take different approaches to how these traditions are carried out and what their consequences are. Whether you view these stories as cautionary tales or simply thought-provoking works of fiction will likely depend on your own perspective and worldview. But regardless of your opinions, it is undeniable that they make us question our own values and beliefs about childhood, sacrifice, happiness, and tradition.