Q.L.C.’s first meeting of this academic year attempted to break down and discuss Ursula le Guin’s enigmatic masterpiece The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas. The club had recommended this story as part of its summer reading activity, and since it received a good response from the members, it was selected as the topic of the first meeting of the year.
|Full-house for the First Meeting!|
The short story revolves around the Utopian city of Omelas whose citizens enjoy eternal well-being and happiness which, in a cruel twist provided by the writer, depends on the perpetual misery of a single child.
The story itself teases many emotions and themes and is complex to understand. Q.L.C. attempted to bring the themes of the story into our daily lives and answer some of the questions that le Guin poses.
We started by reflecting on the idea of true happiness. Le Guin devotes two pages of the story to just describing the state of, and the reason for the happiness of the people of Omelas. The members were asked to talk about what made them truly happy. The responses, as ever, were varied, reflective, and at times, amusing- ranging from having ice-cream at midnight to stealing moments of solitude from the bustle of daily life.
However, the atmosphere turned somber when we reflected on the possible sacrifices that other people often have to make even for the simplest of our pleasures. Viewed in this context, it was easier to comprehend the point of the misery of the child.
|Is Evil Necessary?|
The second question that we attempted to answer was that of the conflict between the individual and the society and deciding if it is okay to sacrifice the happiness of one individual for the well-being of the society. There was no definitive conclusion reached on this ambiguous issue, but the club was introspective as we all recognized instances where we often end up sacrificing the happiness of an individual for the greater good of the society.
|Sharing a Thought|
The members were then encouraged to talk about one nefarious quality in them. This was in response to the last question- Is evil necessary? As Vice Principal of the college, and Chairperson of the club, Ms. Grace Sudhir pointed out, it was indeed fascinating to listen to members as they boldly opened up about their darker sides, and attempted to come to terms with how this side too, was an undeniable part of them.
The lecturers who joined us for the meeting, Pushpa Ma’am, Sumitra Ma’am and Jhilam Ma’am were also great sports as they too opened about their darker sides to the members.
|'...they seemed to know where they were going, |
the ones who walked away from Omelas.'
The discussion ended with Grace Ma'am thanking and acknowledging the contributions and efforts of the lecturers, and the active participation of the members. Like with previous Q.L.C. meet-ups, this one too ended with the members learning something new and necessary, not just from a brilliant piece of literature, but also through sharing ideas and thoughts with the rest of the club.