Fictional stories play an important role in our lives, they allow the audience to experience things that are thought to be impossible as well as provide a deeper understanding of many life questions which non-fictional stories can’t seem to cover. Throughout this term, we have covered multiple fictional stories with many forcing the audience to think outside what we know to be true, think outside our own personal experiences and imagine a world, unlike anything we are familiar with. This type of story allows the audience to experience what life would be like in many different scenarios which ultimately introduces many important questions about humanity and life as a whole. Two stories from our readings this term which I believe best represents this idea includes The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas by the author, Ursula LeGuin and The Library of Babel by the author Jorge Luis Borges. These two fictional stories explore two very different realities from our own all while giving the reader a deeper understanding of our own personal lives.
In the case of The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas the narrator describes a perfect town, a utopia described by being located by a beautiful “shimmering sea”(LeGuin 424) with “the air of morning was so clear that the snow still crowning the Eighteen Peaks burned with white-gold fire across the miles of sunlit air, under the dark blue of the sky.”(LeGuin424) The narrator further continues to describe the perfect town of Omelas all while including the reader’s imagination by urging them to picture what the town of Omelas really looks like. This allows the reader to truly picture Omelas as the perfect town, a utopia filled with everything that makes a town, a society and a person filled with nothing but happiness living in a perfect world. The Library of Babel is a universe, also known as the Library, described by the narrator as, ‘indefinite, perhaps infinite'(Borges 113) which is made up of a series of identical hexagonal-shaped rooms. Each room has four walls and is filled with books, there are also small closet-like spaces for sleeping and using the bathroom. The only other part is hallways that lead to the other hexagons. The hallways have spiral staircases, which lead to the other perfectly identical levels. Unlike the city of Omelas which is showcased as a utopia with endless possibilities and prosperity, the library is a limiting and hopeless place because of the fact that nobody, no matter their efforts can find or understand the meaning of the place that they are in. This hopeless and bleak attitude is expressed when the narrator states, “There are official searchers, the “inquisitors.” I have seen them about their tasks: they arrive exhausted at some hexagon, they talk about a staircase that nearly killed them-some steps were missing-they speak with the librarian about galleries and staircases, and, once in a while, they take up the nearest book and leaf through it, searching for disgraceful or dishonorable words. Clearly, no one expects to discover anything. That unbridled hopefulness was succeeded, naturally enough, by similarly disproportionate depression. The certainty that some bookshelf in some hexagon contained precious books, yet that those precious books were forever out of reach, was almost unbearable”(Borges 116). This quote expresses the idea that nobody within the library truely has hope for finding what they’re looking for and it is causing a very bleak and depressing mood throughout the library. The narrator also states, “In earlier times, there was one man for every three hexagons. Suicide and diseases of the lung have played havoc with that proportion. An unspeakably melancholy memory: I have sometimes traveled for nights on end, down corridors and polished staircases, without coming across a single librarian”(Borges 114). This quote further shows how the library is a depressing, hopeless place with many people resulting in suicide to rid themselves of the torture they are experiencing. These two fictional societies despite having many differences from our own society also have many similarities which help the readers better understand their own lives.
First of all, fictional stories do a fantastic job teaching the reader’s how to approach and solve many different types of problems. As reader’s we observe how different characters respond to adversity, learn from these different scenarios and use what was learned in order to solve many of our own problems. Overall fictional stories do a great job in teaching readers to be creative and to better be able to tackle different types of problems. We can see this idea first hand through reading both, The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas as well as The Library of Babel. The major dilemma within the story The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas which is that the entire good fortune and prosperity of the town of Omelas is built on the suffering of a young child. A young child, who is not known to be a boy or girl is locked in the basement of one of the beautiful looking buildings in the town. Everyone in the town knows that this child is there, they know that the child is alone, terrified and on the brink of death from the horrible treatment and abuse but yet nobody in the town does anything to help the child. Although the scenario of a perfect utopia built on the suffering of a young child is impossible, the main premise of this scenario is very relevant within our own society. There are countless examples within our own society of people profiting and prospering off of the mistreatment of others, and being able to read a fictional story of this type of scenario, even though it is indeed fictional still brings great insight into what it would be like to be in this type of situation. This story allows the reader to think about what they would do in a situation like the one proposed all while showing what characters within the story are choosing to do. This story expresses the idea that the mass of people within the town of Omelas do nothing about the mistreatment of the child, they all allow this very negative thing to keep happening in order for their own lives to stay happy and prosperous. This story shows the reader more about their own lives by making them think about what they would do if they were a resident in the town of Omelas or other possible scenario’s within our own reality. The Library of Babel introduces an entirely different scenario in which the reader can dissect and bring what they have learned into their own lives. This story shows the devastating effects of thinking you have no purpose in life. The world of the “Library” is a hopeless and bleak place due to the fact that many of the remaining people within the “Library” have given up on what they believed in and are seen to have no more purpose within their lives. This fictional reality shows the reader the dark and negative effects of a world without hope and allows the reader to better prevent this type of scenario from happening within their own lives since the narrator went in great depth about what caused their own despair and loss of hope. As shown in both stories, The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas and The Library of Babel fictional stories, especially ones relating to realities unlike our own have the ability to help us, as the reader’s in better understanding our own lives and preparing us for possible scenarios in the future.
Another way that fictional stories such as The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas and The Library of Babel impact our own lives is that we, as the reader’s get to see an insight into different characters lives and personal thoughts which in turn, allows us to understand more about human thought, decision making, and overall psychology. This premise is evident within The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas since the entire conflict within the story is based on the decision making and personal thoughts of the residents of Omelas. “Why don’t they stay and fight? Why don’t they play Samson and bring down their world in ruins around them? Because, after all, we need not stop the world when we have merely decided to get off”(Knapp 80). This quote expresses the main psychological dilemma within the story, what to do about the young child locked away. The residents of Omelas know what is happening as seen when the narrator states, “They all know it is there, all the people of Omelas. Some of them have come to see it, others are content merely to know it is there”(LeGuin 427). The people of Omelas may feel bad for the child, they know what is happening is wrong but nobody is willing to lose everything they have. What was described as the perfect town would be gone, everything they love, gone. The only other option for these people is to leave Omelas all together, leave their “perfect” town and everything they know, the child will still be locked in that dark basement, still being horribly mistreated and ignored but to leave Omelas is to stop living by this horrific rule, to stop being complicit to this way of life, however it will still change nothing. This is the psychological insight the readers are given which makes us think hard about our own decisions and thought process throughout reading this story, overall impacting our own lives.
In conclusion, fictional stories play a very important role in our lives, they provide us with many different experiences and insight that without these types of stories would be impossible to experience. Both The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas by the author, Ursula LeGuin and The Library of Babel by the author Jorge Luis Borges do a fantastic job in proving this idea by forcing the audience to think outside of what they are familiar and comfortable with and urge them to think and learn new things about themselves and society as a whole.