Personal Narrative


Punishment and enforcement are both very important aspects of short stories “The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas.” by Ursual K le Guin and “The Ones Who Stay and Fight.” by N.K. Jemisin. While  both punishment and enforcement show up in both stories, they show up in very different ways. The differences relate to how just and impartial Omelas and Um-Helat are. It also relates to effectiveness and whether or not Omelas and Um-Helat’s systems of punishment and enforcement are really that successful.? Omelas shows heavier themes of enforcement and Um-Helat shows a lot more punishment. Um-Helat is more sophisticated and has rules which when broken results in a punishment. Omelas just enforces this rule that the child must be miserable without ever stating why it has to be that way. Um-Helat seems at least a bit more sophisticated and just. It seems that Um-Helat informs the citizens of the rules and that there will be a punishment for breaking them, whereas Omelas never really explains why the child must be punished.

One difference between Omelas and Um-Helat’s enforcement and punishment is the information that is given to citizens about enforcement and punishment. In Omelas there is never an expanded reason for why they are enforcing the abuse of a child. Eexcept for the one punishment, and that is the guarantee that if the child isn’t miserable, the citizens will be. However, the readers we don’t know what is enforcing this guarantee that they will be miserable. In Um-Helat we know there are rules against discrimantion and knowledge of discrimination. We also know the citizens know these rules. This difference relates to the successfulness of Omelas and Um-Helat. When the narrator in “The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas.” introducesd the child and explainsed why the child must be miserable, they say said “The terms are strict and absolute; there may not even be a kind word spoken to the child.” 

In “The Ones Who Stay and Fight.” the narrator says “But she isn’t old enough to have been warned of the consequences of breaking the law, Or to understand that her father knew those consequences and accepted them.” 

The evidence shown supports the my claim about information because it shows how different Um-Helat and Omelas are when it comes to their information. The citizens in Omelas know that the terms are strict;, they know that all their happiness and success is based solely on the child’s misery. However they never clarify why that is. On the other hand, Um-Helat’s social workers inform the citizens about the laws and the consequences of breaking them. However they don’t inform young children about the consequences. This all ties back into how successful the two utopias are. The distribution of information in Um-Helat seems to be very successful, people don’t step out of line and people seem genuinely happy abiding by the laws. However, in Omelas I don’t think people are not genuinely happy. They may have good lives and be successful but they aren’t really happy knowing that to be successful this child has to be joyless. 

Another difference between Omelas and Um-Helat’s punishment and enforcement is how they execute the punishment. In Um-Helat people are executed quickly and painlessly, while in Omelas this one child is tortured painfully everyday. In addition to that, the social workers in Um-Helat at least give children a chance, they don’t immediately kill children that have knowledge. In Omelas there is never a rule that says it must be a child. This ties into how just and honorable the two utopias are. “They will keep her in quarantine, and reach out to her for several days.”  “In the room a child is sitting. It could be a boy or a girl. It looks about six, but actually is nearly ten. It is feeble-minded. Perhaps it was born defective, or perhaps it has become imbecile through fear, malnutrition, and neglect.”

This evidence supports the claim that Omelas and Um-Helat execute their punishment differently because you can see how they give the child a chance in Um-Helat but don’t in Omelas. In Omelas it is known that this is a child, and there is a chance that the reason the child was picked was because it was defective at birth. However, in Um-Helat even though the child sees her dad’s death, and has been diseased with knowledge, the social workers don’t immediately kill her. They quarantine her and try to convince her to become a social worker. Even though not everyone agrees with the way that Um-Helat handles discrimination, it is clear that Um-Helat is more just than Omelas because the social workers are at least willing to give the diseased child a chance. 

The third difference between Omelas and Um-Helat’s punishment and enforcement is  how forgiving it is. Omelas has a very unforgiving system, since the citizens take a child and makes the child miserable for their success. Even though not all people will agree with Um-Helat’s social workers way of handling discrimination they have a more forgiving system because they inform the citizens of the rules, they give children a chance, and they make sure the punishments are painless and quick. This goes along with how desirable Omelas and Um-Helat are. “The child used to scream for help at night, and cry a good deal, but now it only makes a kind of whining, “eh-haa, eh-haa,” and it speaks less and less often.”  “There are other options—and this is Um-Helat, friend, where even a pitiful, diseased child matters.” This evidence supports the claim that Um-Helat is more forgiving than Omelas, and that it all ties into how desirable the two utopias are because you can see how miserable and unforgiving Omelas is. In Um-Helat everyonme matters, as stated in the evidence. However, in Omelas they pick one child to torture tourter despite the crying and screaming of the child.

In summary Um-Helat is much more successful, just, and desirable than Omelas. Omelas’ punishment and enforcement system is less forgiving, informative and has much more painful execution. Omelas shows more enforcement than punishment and Um-Helat is the opposite  showing more punishment than enforcement. However, even if I think that Um-Helat is more just than Omelas, Omelas’ punishment and enforcement system has its pros and cons, as do all systems.