The stories of post-apocalyptic, apocalyptic, and dystopian stories is an eye opening genre that forces each of us to choose our morals. Through the examination of two different texts through their community versus individual approach, values must be picked between the idea of the community over the individual or the individual over the community. The first story sums up an entire world that is in a state of calamity. This world must now break off in society and every family takes control of the situation individually.
In the second story, a perfect society keep something locked in a small-dark room. There is no hope for the thing to be let out. Thus begins a long tormented thought process for those who see it. In the story “The Age of Miracles” by Karen Thompson Walker, there is a shift in the earth’s movement and every family goes into a state of disaster. Some leave their homes and clog the highways, others believe that the earth slowing down is a type of hoax and the rest prepare by stocking their homes with water bottles and canned goods for when there will be a food shortage.
Shortly after the morning announcement of the earth’s slowing, people wander outside to inspect the landscape. They stare at the sky, listen to the wind and regard the plants. There are no changes. It’s too soon for changes. Soon there will be changes. Every family that has become aware of the slowing of the earth is hurriedly thrust into a mode of survival. There are a select few that claimed to have seen the slowing of the earth happen. These people are the types that work through the night, university students that complete all-nighters, insomniacs and hospital patients.
They see and feel, when the night turns slowly into day and the nights have been slower. Some blame the wars and natural disasters for most of the world not paying attention to the warnings of scientists, who were unable to publish their findings on the slowing of the earth. These select few bask in their glory of knowing about the earth’s slowing before the entire world, however they are also saddened. The invisible catastrophe brought immense fear into each families lives. Schools brought in counselors to help the children understand and some regular activities were cancelled.
Although some, like Sylvia the piano teacher, kept enjoying their lives as before. Like a slowing of the earth would not change their lives or perhaps they wanted to feel as normal as possible. The fear of the catastrophe has ripped communities apart while families abandon their homes, schools and former activities. It is common knowledge that animals know when there is a natural disaster coming to their area. When several birds, deer and any other animal run in a direction for no reason, take note. Birds began swirling over the yard, while a father and daughter kicked a soccer ball around.
The birds were not small like the family were accustomed to seeing, but large birds that would be found in the forest or woods. They were flying west to the coast. Gravity was also changing, this same family heard a thud and discovered a small bird had flown into their window. The earth’s slowing was affecting the human population and the animal as well. On the news and radio stations, the same information was barked to the viewers and listeners. Many people clung to their tv sets and radios listening for someone to say something revolutionary, hopeful or new.
During the first night of the announcement of the earth’s slowing, many people went outside as the sun fell from the sky and disappeared behind the mountains or into the sea. Some sat in their garages with drinks and cigarettes in hand, others walked about the streets and a few sat on their porches. The sun set slower than normal and rose later than usual too. Continually, the television sets are kept on for a glimpse of a hoax or new images of the effects of the slowing. This story is a riveting example of valuing the individual over the community.
As the narrator continues, more effects of the slowing are revealed. Most of the families leave their communities in hope of finding somewhere safer to live; somewhere with more sunlight. This next story values the community over the individual. A young child is whisked into a closet and hidden from the world, so that the community can live perfect lives. In the short story “The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas” by Ursula K. Le Guin, a young child of either gender and lethargic features is continually abused by its own community.
The whole community’s perfect joy, fortune and health rely on the torment of a 10-year-old child. Outside of the child’s habitation the Festival of summer is occurring. Mothers are carrying their young children in the streets and talking happily together about various topics. A boy is perched playing his flute and ignoring all those who pass him, because he is entranced by his own musical abilities. Children covered in mud are riding horses in a race. All seems well in Omelas. Although a young child is being oppressed by that same happy community.
The people of Omelas know that the dirty child with its swollen stomach, who sits in its own feces, is whimpering alone in a room as small as a pantry. Even the people that do not go to see the child knows of its existence. The community of Omelas is ultimately dependent on a sole individual. All the guilt, sin and terrors of the community are absorbed by the saddened child. The community is an odd place compared to our own reality. Although the entire community is joyful in their perfect world, because of the tortured child, they are not categorized as being a simple minded society.
In Omelas, there are no stock exchanges, advertisements or secret police. Cars are not seen too. In addition, the text does not recount any laws, save one. It suggests that there are few laws in the city of Omelas. The one law made known to the reader forbids anyone to speak kindly to the child. Perhaps kind words would give the child false hope of a different life. A life with the feeling of warmth from sunlight, delicious baked goods still piping hot from the oven or a comforting hug from a caretaker or perhaps a close friend.
Life in Omelas is a perfectly happy place, if you are not the chosenunfortunate child. After some of the Omelas people realized the ultimate fate of the child, a few youths and adults do something drastic. Either for sport, philosophical reasons or their own curiosity, children and adults visit the tattered child. They do not speak to the child, but they listen to it cry out saying, “Please let me out. I will be good! ” Quickly after seeing the thing, a handler tosses cornmeal into the child’s bowl and closes the door. Leaving the child in darkness and despair again.
Following the peoples harrowing visit to see the child, some of the people of Omelas contemplate the society that they inhabit. A few become too agonized by their community’s treatment of a young 10-year-old child that they begin walking in one direction and do not return to their former home. This drastic decision is an act of quit protest. Fear is the center of the child’s life. It is especially afraid of mops that rest upon the walls close to him. Although it closes his eyes, they are always waiting to haunt him when he looks again.
When the few people of Omelas, who have compassion on him, wonder about the life he might be able to have outside, they realize a sad truth. If the child were to gain the same civil rights as all Omelas citizens, the community of thousands would be in anguish for the happiness of one soul. The perfect community full of mostly selfish people want to keep their luxuries, so the abused child must continue to sit in its own bodily fluids and be constantly fearful with little hope of another life. In this saddening story, a child is left alone in a dark room with barely any contact with the outside world.
All the people of Omelas know of the child and some adults even have children of their own. Although their empathy does not seem to extend to the child that sits alone in the dark. Eventually some people become so sickened with their community that they leave Omelas in a protest for the child. The people of Omelas continue to keep the child locked away, because they want to keep their town perfect. These two stories provide stark contrast. The first story values the individual over the communities and the second values the community over the individual. These two stories force the reader to choose hardened values.