A Summary of Concepts Explored in The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas

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You must be wondering why I placed these statements on the board. Well thinking about power and morality, isn’t morality, decisions that would lead to the happiness of someone. Doesn’t have to be you. And power is what helps you make that decision or attain that happiness. Because if you look at all the morality examples, isn’t it essentially the wellbeing and happiness in exchange for something terrible. Again, they might not all be towards you, but to people. People get carried away with power because they are getting what they want, they are happy and they don’t want it to stop, because happiness is a drug. They don’t want it to stop because they know all of it is at the costs of some else’s suffering or maybe their own. And if it stops, they would and will have to face it, I don’t think anyone wants that kind of responsibility.

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Faustus explores ‘power’ and my ort The Ones Who Walked Away from Omelas explores morality. Omelas is a story about a very happy town, with no unhappiness, war, illness, conflict, crimes and there isn’t even a government due to the fact that everyone gets along so well. However, as the story progresses, it is revealed that the source of the town’s happiness is with the cost of the misery of one child, and this child receives the worst treatment any human could receive, and the citizens are aware of this. While Faustus is about a man who felt no satisfaction in his knowledge decided to use trade with the devil to gain knowledge of topics such as the world, death and even religion and all of his desires and his happiness was fulfilled, but not his satisfaction. But Faustus eventually dies at the end of the play.

Omelas represents the concepts of morality and power because there is a lack of power but their morality is tested due to an exchange of misery for happiness. Some escape it while some accept/ignore it. The suffering is also monopolised in this text. In this text, ‘power’ appears to be absent. This is because the people and citizens contain and hold the ‘power’ and not a single institution such as a government.

“There was no king. They did not use swords, or keep slaves. They were not barbarians. I do not know the rules and laws of their society, but I suspect that they were singularly few.” These people face a moral dilemma which is the suffering child in the story and they either walk away and ignore or accept and the narrator describes this by saying “but there is one more thing to tell, and this is quite incredible.” This could be because those people have and gained the courage to walk away and live a life where there is no guaranteed happiness unlike Omelas or that they have the courage to be able to run away which would be known as escapism. These two groups actually mirror the people in society if the minority of strong activists are excluded. People who escape(escapism) and people who face and accept reality(realism), however in both cases, both groups are faced with this moral dilemma of sacrificing the child. Omelas could actually be a personification of human psychology. There is a part that will be happy and perfect, there are parts in us that want everything to be perfect but have those thoughts in the back of our head that eat us up, such as doubts, and there are parts that are completely naïve or wish to be naïve to everything. Also, to gain all of this there is always a part of us that needs to be sacrificed to gain this happiness, and this is what many critics and educational people have been saying. Whenever there is happiness there is something always sacrificed in exchange for it. Whether it would be time, emotions or life to gain peace after the war as some people would say. The narrator describes happiness in a confusing way “happiness is based on a just discrimination of what is necessary, what is neither necessary nor destructive, and what is destructive.” As seen in this, happiness is achieved through the ‘discrimination’ of what people say to be necessary- so vital- what is neither necessary and destructive- so what provides comfort- and destructive. By separating these things, what the people have selected are what is necessary, so everything else is non-existent. is this really happiness, separating all of these and then selecting one so there is no risk of anything. There isn’t even any technology, how is everyone always so healthy. They even accept and are completely fine with an orgy. All of these and there is peace. If this is peace then is our definition of peace wrong or unclear? Is peace achievable with sacrifice, because due to the sacrifice there is peace, so then is peace achievable with just a sacrifice? The misery and sacrifice of something vital, for happiness which is just an emotion and peace which is temporary. Is it worth it? This is how Omelas challenges our morals.

Faustus is a test of human desires and its effect on themselves and the surrounding people. The happiness is monopolised towards Faustus as well. This is created once the contract has been created. The ambiguity of evil is counted into question. Is what Faustus doing really evil, is it really ‘himself’ that is committing these evil acts? The reason for this question is because Faustus occasionally refers to himself in 3rd person, before and after the contract. “But Faustus’ offence can ne’er be pardoned!” this is an example, of when he distances himself from himself and treats himself as a completely different person via the narration style.

He appears to be a character that left behind all traditions to go after his ambitions and desire of knowledge, which creates a possibility of the 3rd person Faustus he refers to, his old self, before following his ambitions and resulting to means of Blackmagic, and this is seen with this huge monologue. Now let’s zoom in to this underlined part. But what he didn’t realise is that he limited his desires to something insignificant. Could be saying that everyone’s desires really are insignificant. Anyhow, the 3rd person reference could also be due to the fact that Faustus doesn’t know and understand his position, which hence creates confusion of identity and hence an identity crisis. There is also an interpretation of the play by RSC production in 2016 the actors for Faustus and Mephistopheles would strike a match every time before a conversation or a scene to decide who would play which role. This would be a physical representation of the side effects of power on the human psychology as Faustus’s happiness is on the exchange of the misery of everyone else around him. This grants him happiness but as Omelas we are once again confronted with what happiness is. Following the rule that has been suggested by Omelas is that is it a separation of what is necessary, but this text doesn’t really follow that rule. Instead, it shows power is what grants happiness and in exchange for power which equals happiness, also exchanges everyone else’s happiness.

How did I come to this conclusion? Its cause of this. So, this text is actually quite selfish and the statement is quite contradictory because due to this he then suffers greatly at the end. So even though there is power, which is supposedly meant to bring happiness does it really bring satisfaction. Faustus is still miserable, but why? My guess is that he has lost his sense of ‘self’. Even at the beginning and even towards the end, everywhere he refers to himself in 3rd person. Which leads to the play I brought up earlier. The sense of the lack of identity because the role of the person is decided by the flip of a coin. So power is represented to bring ‘temporary’ happiness by being able to achieve your ambitions but no satisfaction.

Now, what has driven Marlowe and Ursula to write these two texts? The context of both of these texts is actually distant from each other. Dr Faustus was first played in 1592 while Omelas was first published in 1973. Around the time of publishing Omelas, the start of the digital age occurred, Apollo 14 was launched, the US signed the Paris Peace Accords which ended the war in Vietnam and withdrew themselves from it. The author of Omelas, Ursula K. Le Guin, was an author that involved philosophy into her works, which was influenced by her father as her father was an anthropologist and her mother as a writer. During all of these events, people were hoping for peace as there were movements of peace being created within the society. This huge movement of peace inspired Ursula to write Omelas to potentially challenge of whether or not happiness can truly be achieved.

In Faustus on the other hand, there was a lot of religion and huge political events happening. Marlowe converted to Catholicism when Protestantism was the state religion and was hated for it. Dr Faustus was actually his last play before religion was suddenly banned from the nation. Which was because religion and witchcraft was a blur and people thought that if you follow a religion, you do witchcraft. In the play, there is also a good and bad angel in the play and there is a lot of religious allusions, so even though we have so much power, does the supernatural restrict us, because, at the time, Catholicism and Protestantism had a complicated relationship, so is Marlowe questioning the power of religion. The good and bad angels both have influence over Faustus, mostly the bad, but when Faustus could seek no more satisfaction, he would go to the good angle and ask if he could repent, seeking that satisfaction, that I mentioned that he lacked and just couldn’t get. So Marlowe was questioning whether or not religion and the supernatural really grant satisfaction.

So therefore morality, power and happiness all are interconnected and related to each other as seen in the very first slide, and both of these texts seem to have different statements about happiness and the method to attain it. However, they have one thing in common and that is, is that it is a trade. This is a conclusion I have come to by reading through articles the introduction section of Dr Faustus, and article and interviews of the inspiration and influences of Omelas.

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