Shirley Jackson's the Lottery with Ursula Le Guin's the Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas
Literature has always been a vehicle for change, fueled by the contributions of various writers/thinkers who provide just the right food for thought. One such contribution has been made by Shirley Jackson through the short story The Lottery. Comparable in effectiveness is the work of Ursula Le Guin by the name of The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas. Both stories are fictional by nature and content but make the reader pause and think about the society and its philosophies. The Lottery is set in a small town where villagers gather together in the central square for the annual lottery, which is held just before a crop season. This lottery is aimed at choosing a winning family by way of a marked chit in order to sacrifice it to herald a good crop season. Since farming is the livelihood, a lifestyle of the villagers in this small town, the crop is not just a harvest but the focal point around which everything rotates. It symbolizes life for the villagers. As a result, holding the lottery is so important and necessary despite the brutality. "Lottery in June, corn be heavy soon," also shows that the event is held in summers. The second story is also set in summers and opens with a festival in the city of Omelas to celebrate arrival of the summers. The society is explained in the story where its structure is laid out. However the peaceful and happy setting changes into a glum and a disgusting scenario which happens to be the foundation of the city's happiness and calm. Apart from the happy setting, the city of Omelas houses a child who is handled in an inhumane way in order to make sure that the entire city remains prosperous. This is this society's foundation and is accepted by the people living there except the few who simply leave the city.
COMPARISON AND CONTRAST
Though both the stories are classics in the genre of short stories, Le Guin's work is more of a landmark, comparable to Utopia: adding a new angle to the philosophy of existence. On the other hand, the former is more of a literary genius written with great sense of literary tools; irony, symbols, thematic presentation etc. This is why both of the works also turn out to be quite contrasting in presentation. Furthermore, Lottery is more of a focus on one issue in society, that is, blind faith in and practice of a ritual. On the other hand, Omelas provides an exhaustive observation about life, existence and its meaning itself. Though both the works focus on issues regarding life, Lottery is thus a micro observation about rituals and traditions whereas Omelas is a macro or an overall view about life itself. However where presentation is concerned, both the stories are comparable in presentation such that both begin with a tone of gaiety and festivity but take a sadistic turn ending on a sad note. As a result, both of the stories have an unexpected twist. The stories are also comparable in theme where both are concentrating on societal issues, its structure and practices.
Shirley Jackson's Lottery is comparable to Ursula Le Guin's The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas in that the societies in both the stories are functioning on an assumption, a practice that has not been challenged. The only difference is that in the former, the setting is a small town whereas in the latter, the story is set in a city. In The Lottery, the practice is to sacrifice a family in order to guarantee prosperity for the surviving village. The people in this town believe that if they will offer a human sacrifice, they will get a good crop. Since crop symbolizes livelihood for the town people, they believe that a good crop will bring prosperity for the whole town. Similarly, in The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas, the society believes that in order for the entire city to be happy and prosperous, they ought to sacrifice one child. The other scenario is not possible because "if the child were brought up into the sunlight out of that vile place, if it were cleaned and fed and comforted, that would be a good thing, indeed; but if it were done, in that day and hour all the prosperity and beauty and delight of Omelas would wither and…