A scapegoat is an individual or a thing that stands in the place of others with the purpose of taking on their pain. The concept of using scapegoats has been developed over time, with religion being the main culprits. Christ has been used as a scapegoat by Christians over the years while the Jews have used a goat as theirs. These scapegoats are supposed to take the blame for all the shortcomings of people of faith, and are the main explanation for the actions that they undertake. Almost all people of faith have used these scapegoats at one instance or another in the course of their time in the belief. This analysis examines the use of the child as a scapegoat and the moral implications of their choice.
The people of Omelas have resulted into using the child locked in the attic as their scapegoat. The society has been promised a life of joy, peace and fulfillment, in exchange for one child in the community to take the blame for their actions. There are individuals in the society who understand the reasons why the child must be locked up while others do not. For those with the slightest comprehension of the situation, they understand that the child has to be there; their happiness, the city’s beauty, health of their children, wisdom of their scholars and other aspects of their wellbeing depend on the abominable life of misery, pain and neglect that the child now faces. It is a sad and sickening sight to the youth who do not understand the reasons for the society’s actions.
Though they try to rationalize their actions, there is no morality in the actions that they have taken towards the child. They state that one person is a small price to pay for the welfare and livelihood of the whole society. They note that if the child were to see the light of day, the Omelas city would be destroyed. It is not rational to exchange the life of thousands of the residents of the city just to improve the livelihood on the child, they said. There is no morality in their actions because no individual has the right to change the course of the life of another in a monumental manner that the citizenry did. Though there is some rationale in their actions, there is no morality in their actions. The citizens, while making the decision of having the child locked in a cold, dark room have no respect for its welfare and right to life.
The prevalent predicament in the society is the person versus self-conflict. This is evident at the end of the story, when some individuals who are not pleased with the decisions of the society to lock the child up have reprieve and self -loathing to the extent that they want to subject themselves to the same torture as that of the child. The author indicates that a majority of individuals in the society are guilty of their actions, and are remorseful for being part of the individuals that made the decision for the child to stay locked up in the attic/ basement.
The child with the flute is happy and interacts with the society freely. He has the honor of walking amongst people and feeling like part of their community. The one in the broom closet, on the other hand, is looked upon with fear and awe. He serves as a constant reminder of the wrong choices that the citizenry has made. The people who stay after viewing the child have no remorse for using the child as their sacrificial lamb while those who walk away are torn apart by guilt and anguish over their actions. The plot centers on the idea that all actions have consequences. Some people might have to live with these consequences while others might feel overwhelmed by the outcomes of their actions. LeGuin’s audience is the adult individuals in the society. They are responsible for the decisions made because they are mature enough to distinguish right from wrong. The author tries to teach individuals to live with the choices they make, whether good or evil.