Q: It’s Memorial Day Weekend…do I know where my Teen and Tween are?
A: Yup! Hanging with friends at the Unschooling Conference, Life Is Good!
Q: What books are on my ping pong table?
A: Well, I’m pondering “The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas,” and am about to write about it…
There is fiction that teaches openly…
and there is fiction that draws us into a teaching story.
Which is more powerful?
I found myself asking this question as I struggled to read the first half of The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas. And it was a struggle. The first 2/3 of this incredibly short story (we’re talking about 32 small-sized pages)…completely failed to capture me. Which, given how much I loved the Earthsea Trilogy…was surprising.
For those of you who are not familiar with Ursula Le Guin, she is a FORCE in the world of contemporary science fiction! The back cover of this small book reads:
Ursula K. Le Guin is one of the most highly regarded writers in contemporary science fiction. Among her most popular works are the novels The Left Hand of Darkness and The Dispossessed. Le Guin has also written a number of books for children, including the award-winning Earthsea Trilogy, three volumes deppicting a wizard’s struggle against evil.
Truly, she is an amazing author – and very well regarded. So, why was I struggling? What was…not working for me?
Well, I think I figured it out, once I hit page 23…and tension entered into the story. Now, the late entrance of tension is probably no error or oversight. I expect it was purposeful and that Le Guin intended this story exactly as it is. But, for me…until the tension arrived, I was distinctly UNinterested.
I wonder if this is a construct of modern culture? Although, I am 40. I grew up without a television, video games, or the internet. I grew up with long, slow summer days filled with Tolkien, Anne of Green Gables, the Little House series by Laura Ingalls, and books on “record,” before tapes even became popular! So, it’s not like I’m a candidate for “action addiction.”
Yet, still…the initial absence of “tension” was obvious and striking. Which, I believe, strengthens my underlying impression that “only through the heart” is true change possible. After all, I had heard great things about this story…I was eagerly looking forward to reading it. I had every possible “mental” reason to be a perfect audience for her story! Yet…I struggled.
Therefore it may be true that: even when the mind is powerfully engaged…if we cannot access the power of emotions…our staying power will, most likely, be very low.
And to reach into the emotions of our readers – we need characters they can relate to and lots and lots of tension! We need our characters to face critically decisive moments and take action! We need to be drawn into the heart of the moment so that we can learn along with and through the experiences of the protagonist.
Do I still recommend
The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas?”
To avoid blowing the end of the story for you,
I’ll offer this comment which you’ll only understand after reading the story.
I believe that the situation proposed is slightly off. In that, it is not simply “one” who suffers…it is “billions,” and so…the answer is not so simple for those of us living in the real world.
Don’t miss my previous authors! Archived here: www.voiceofvashon.org/prose-poetry-and-purpose