Comparison and Contrast of The Lottery and The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas

The differences between "The Lottery" by Shirley Jackson and "The Ones
Who Walk Away from Omelas" by Ursula K. Le Guin seem relatively minor when
compared to the striking similarities they contain in setting, symbols, and
Each of the stories begin with a description of a beautiful summer day.
"The flowers were blooming profusely and the grass was richly green"(para 1) in
"The Lottery" is quite comparable to "old moss-grown gardens and under avenues
of trees"(para 1) in "...Omelas." These descriptions (along with several
others) provide positive connotations and allow the reader to relax into what
seems to be a comfortable setting in either story. Both stories also contain a
gathering of townspeople. In "...Omelas there is music, dance, and special
attire incorporated in the gathering, whereas in "The Lottery," the women show
up "wearing faded house dresses and sweaters." Although Le Guin\'s environment
seems more festive, all the folks in both stories are coming together for what
seems to be enjoyable, even celebratory occasions. However, I believe the
major similarity lies in the fact that these many pleasant details create a
facade within each story. The reader is then left ill-prepared when the
shocking, brutally violent, ritualistic traditions are exposed.
Children are an important focus in both stories. Jackson makes it easy
for us to imagine their "boisterous play"(para 2), and Le Guin writes "their
high calls rising like swallows\' crossing flights over the music and the
singing"(para1). I see these children being used to symbolize perceived states
of happiness in both stories. I also believe they are vital necessities in each
story because they are taught and expected to carry traditions into the future.
For instance, in "The Lottery," "someone gave little Davy Hutchinson a few
pebbles"(para 76), he is then able to participate in the stoning of his own
mother, and in "...Omelas," the tradition "is usually explained to children when
they are between eight and twelve"(para 10), and of course, the victim in this
tale is a child.
The fact that both authors include references to farming may be due to
the association between farming and tradition. I know many people who believe
that farming is a way of life that is handed down from generation to generation,
it is very much a tradition to them. The men in "The Lottery" are "speaking of
planting and rain, tractors and taxes"(para 3) and in "...Omelas," the farmer\'s
market is described as nothing less than "magnificent"(para 3). The most
obvious reason for these references is that the rituals performed in both
stories are suppose to have an effect on harvest. "Lottery in June, corn be
heavy soon"(para 32) in "The Lottery" used to be a saying heard in their
community. And in "...Omelas," "the abundance of their harvest"(para 9), along
with many other things, supposedly depended upon their performing the certain
Although the reasons for the traditions are slightly different in each
story, the rituals themselves are very much alike. Both are shocking and both
involve the sacrifice of a human being. Because the sacrifice in "The Lottery"
is chosen strictly by chance, age is not a determinant, whereas in "...Omelas"
the sacrifice is always a child. However, regardless of this difference, when
the time comes, victims in each of these tales begins pleading for release
from their inevitable doom. The child in "...Omelas" says "Please let me out. I
will be good!"(para 8), while in "The Lottery," Tessie screams, "It isn\'t fair,
it isn\'t right"(para 79). In Le Guin\'s story, death comes through slow, twisted
torture. The naked child sacrifice is locked in a dark cellar room, fed only a
small portion of cornmeal and grease once a day, and is allowed no desirable
human contact or communication. In "The Lottery" the sacrifice is simply stoned
to death by the remaining community, including friends and family, although this
isn\'t quite as sickening as the method in the other story, it is horrible and
wicked nonetheless.
Although it is stated in "...Omelas" that "they all understand that
their happiness, the beauty of their city, the tenderness of their friendships,
the health of their children, the wisdom of their scholars, the skill of their
makers, even the abundance of their harvest and the kindly weather of their
skies, depend wholly on this child\'s abominable misery,"(para 9) there is
evidence that not all agree with it. In fact, after young people see the victim
in it\'s abhorrent condition, they are described as "shocked and sickened at the
sight"(para 10), and "often the young people