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The Need for a Pariah Exposed in Those Who Walk Away From Omelas

The Need for a Pariah Exposed in Those Who Walk Away From Omelas

Affirmative action is perhaps the political hot potato of the decade. Its divisiveness has escalated racial tensions all across the nation, in forums political and academic. It also creates problems on a daily basis for millions of Americans in the workforce, education, housing, and so forth. Affirmative action, by its very definition, uses discrimination to attempt to create equality. Its ultimate goal is to make everyone equal to everyone else- intellectually, ability-wise, and (dare I say?) socially. What the proponents of this racial and gender communism do not realize is that society can only function in the absence of complete equality. Society is always in need of someone – be it a nationality, religion, or gender – to look down on. This point is most clearly made in the short story Those Who Walk Away From Omelas, a 1973 work by Ursula K. Leguin. The central message of Omelas is that society needs a pariah- someone to look down on in order to maintain its own happiness.

Omelas begins amidst a festival in the seemingly utopian city of Omelas. People are in a holiday spirit on this day, as they are every other day in Omelas. Mirth and good cheer seems to be the moods of all of the citizens. Though blissful, these people are by no means ignorant: They were not simple folks, you see, though they were happy…They were not less complex than us. The seemingly perfect city offers something to please every taste: festivals, good-natured orgies, drugs that aren’t habit-forming, beer, and so on. The citizens of Omelas have a complete love of life. There is no war, no hunger, no strife; in short, Omelas seems like the pinnacle of perfection.

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…t this system is branded a racist or narrow-minded. Hence, those who would oppose affirmative action are becoming the objects of scorn and derision; this coupled with the fact that they are discriminated against by affirmative action policies means that they have become the pariahs! Leguin’ss story is now an allegory for them- they are now they small child, trapped and abused in the closet. So, in its attempt to eliminate discrimination and the oppressed society, affirmative action has created one instead! Few who support affirmative action because they loathe bigotry realize that by doing so they are themselves bigots. Leguin’s powerful statement that the pariah culture is omnipresent rings true when one considers that the pariah culture is merely perpetuated by the attempt to eradicate it.

Works Cited:

Ursula K. Le Guin, ‘Those Who Walk Away from Omelas’

Freedom is Not Free in Bread Givers

Freedom is Not Free in Bread Givers

Anzia Yezierska in Bread Givers and “Children of Loneliness” explores the theme of reconciling assimilation to American culture and retaining her cultural heritage. “Richard F. Shepard asserted in the New York Times that Yezierska’s people…did not want to find themselves. They wanted to lose themselves and find America” (Gale Database 8). Rachel and Sara, the main characters, move ahead by employing the America motto of hard work will pay off. The problem for both is losing their Jewish identity in the process. Yezierska, like the female characters, experienced the loneliness of separation from the Jewish people when she rose above poverty. “I am alone because I left my own world” (Ebest 8). She explores this issue repeatedly in her work trying to find a solution to a problem with no easy answer.

In order to obtain religious, social, political, and equality 23 million Jews immigrated to America during the years between 1880 and 1920 (Chametzky, 5). Anzia Yezierska wrote about her experiences as a poor immigrant in her fictional work becoming a voice of the Jewish people in the1920s. She struggled to obtain an education that allowed her to rise above her family’s poverty and gain a measure of autonomy. Rachel and Sara, the female protagonists, mirror the author’s life going from struggling immigrant to college graduate. Yezierska uses her own experiences to portray the Jewish immigrant experience with a woman’s perspective. She successfully gained a commercial following that allowed her to mediate the cultural differences between the mainstream culture and the Jewish people that helped resolve differences between the established Americans and these new immigrants for a time (Ebes…

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…iable to a particular ethnic identification. Freedom in America is not free; each immigrant ethnic group loses their culture identity eventually but they also add to the diverse American voice.

Works Cited

Chametzky, Jules. Introduction. .” Jewish American Literature. Ed. Jules Chametzky,

John Felstiner, Hilene Flanzbaum, and Kathryn Hellerstein. New York: W.W. Norton, 2001. 1-23.

Ebest, Ron. “Anzia Yezierska and the Popular Periodical Debate Over the Jews.”

The Society for the Study of the Multi-Ethnics Literature of the United States. Spring 2000

Gale Literary Database. 2001. Gale Group

Yezierska, Anzia. Bread Givers. New York: Persea Books, 1925.

—. “Children of Loneliness.” Jewish American Literature. Ed. Jules Chametzky,

John Felstiner, Hilene Flanzbaum, and Kathryn Hellerstein. New York: W.W. Norton, 2001. 233-244.

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