Annotated Bibliography

Adams, Rebecca. “Narrative Voice and Unimaginability of the Utopian ‘Feminine’ in Le Guin’s The Left Hand of Darkness and ‘The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas.’” Utopian Studies, vol. 2, no. 1/2, June 1991, p. 35. EBSCOhost,

Rebecca Adams discusses the mythology of utopia and how language can change the narrative. She examines two stories by Ursula K. Le Guin, ‘The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas’ and ‘The Left Hand of Darkness’. Adams focus is through a feminist lens, using Freudian theory to explain how utopian ideals are inherently masculine.

Archie, Lee, and John G. Archie. “Chapter 23. ‘Happiness Is the Greatest Good’ by Jeremy Bentham.” Reading for Philosophical Inquiry: A Brief Introduction to Philosophical Thinking, edited by John G Archie, 21st ed., GNU Free Documentation License, pp. 251–265.

This source is from my philosophy textbook, which is an open source publication and does not yet exist in print. The textbook goes over various philosophical essays regarding various philosophers and their ideals, and provides a great starting point for any student in philosophy. Given that “Those Who Walk Away From Omelas” is a critique of utilitarianism, I thought the chapter on utilitarianism would be particularly useful here. The work goes over Jeremy Bentham, an 18th century philosopher’s essay on utilitarianism, and how he thought utility should be the guiding principle for law making. He believed in the best for the most people. As long as the amount of happiness generated is greater than any non-happiness, the action is moral, and should be pursued. Bentham is not a fan of asceticism, or the practice of extreme self-denial. He believes that pursuing that path will lead to misery, and so does not fit with the ideals of utility. Bentham sees the world in terms of pleasure and pain. In order to maximize pleasure, and minimize pain, actions must be taken to account for the pleasure for the most amount of people, which is what happens in Omelas. One person suffers greatly, but the rest of the community thrives, therefore maximizing pleasure and minimizing pain.

BBC – Religions – Christianity: Why did Jesus die? (n.d.-b).

A brief overview discussing why Jesus died for us, what atonement is, and the metaphor, “sacrificial lamb”.

Collins, Jerre. “Leaving Omelas: Questions of Faith and Understanding.” Studies in Short Fiction, vol. 27, no. 4, Fall 1990, p. 525. EBSCOhost,

In this essay Collins argues that The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas critiques the moral state of the US. Collins focuses on a religious tone with this, giving examples of a suffering-servant theodicy, theodicy meaning an idea that justifies evil despite the claim of the existence of a good God. Collins argues that Le Guin is trying to critique or even attack that notion of theodicy. This results in a critique of American moral state as Collins sees it, a country that Le Guin finds morally skewed because of its justification for a good, moral God. This essay seems to be a New Critical lens with pieces of historical criticism as it is pressing the social and political standings of the US at the time. Those searching a sociological, religious, or even philosophical outlook might look to this essay.

Cross, Katherine. “Naming a Star: Ursula Le Guin’s The Dispossessed and the Reimagining of Utopianism.” American Journal of Economics & Sociology, vol. 77, no. 5, Nov. 2018, pp. 1329–52. EBSCOhost,

Cross focuses her paper on Ursula Le Guin’s The Dispossessed and her ideology regarding utopia. Cross takes regard to Le Guin’s views of how power is used in governing and society, noting how there is oftentimes informal power rather than formal. This brings to Cross and Le Guin excellent evidence that utopia will always have some form of power, whether it is this informal or formal power. Cross examines this position by analysis thoroughly each aspect of The Dispossessed in sex, hierarchy, and the plot of the story. While this essay focuses much on The Dispossessed and its implications as a story it also refer often to Le Guin’s own personal views of utopia. The lens Cross takes appears to be on the side of New Criticism, with very specific examples of how the text brings you to a certain conclusion, but the inclusion of Le Guin’s own personal sociological views it could be labeled as a political lens, so those wishing to analysis from those lenses may find this paper highly useful.

Ellis, John M. “What Does Deconstruction Contribute to Theory of Criticism?” New Literary History, vol. 19, no. 2, 1988, pp. 259–79. JSTOR, Accessed 10 Dec. 2022.

This article considers the attempts to define and limit what deconstruction is. It is proposed to be an ever-changing discourse that continually undermines the text it analyzes, often challenging every image and idea put forward by a text, while retaining the original image to focus on how it’s undermined by the text itself. Even the analyst’s view of a text needs to be deconstructed, as traditional interpretations and theoretical lenses all assume single, authoritative ways to read texts. This article makes an important distinction, however, between attacking theory in general and focusing on the specific issues in the unity of a text, or unity of a specific interpretation. With this analysis of deconstructive theory, emphasis is placed on the judgement of meaning rather than the clear subversion of meanings.

Firenze, Paul. “‘[T]hey, Like the Child, Are Not Free’: An Ethical Defense of the Ones Who Remain in Omelas.” Response, Nov. 2017, Accessed 13 Dec. 2022.

Paul Firenze discusses Ursula K. Le Guins short story, ‘The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas’ and the dueling decisions between staying in Omelas and walking away. Firenze argues that those that walk away are less moral than those that stay because the ones that stay allow a possibility for change. Paul Firenze is an Assistant Professor of Humanities and Social Sciences at Wentworth Institute of Technology in Boston. His focus is on ethics, philosophy, and religion.

Kallis, Giorgos, and Hug March. “Imaginaries of Hope: The Utopianism of Degrowth.” Annals of the Association of American Geographers, vol. 105, no. 2, Mar. 2015, pp. 360–68. EBSCOhost,

March and Kallis both examine the nature of degrowth, a differing view from that of capitalist growth. They theorize that Ursula Le Guin’s story The Dispossessed and her own personal views on utopia further the ideas of degrowth . They also bring in different voices of sociologists and economists to back their analysis. Their arguments lead to a conclusion from Le Guin’s writing that utopia is not a matter of finally reaching an end of perfection, but one that is vastly improved from past generations, despite conflict and some suffering. They support those arguments with The Dispossessed but also social philosophers like Serge Latouche, David Harvey, Frederick Jameson, and many others. Their overall approach involves a sociological and environmental lens, with focuses on government structure involved in creating utopia through gradual changes rather than abrupt, violent change. Logically then a reader may use this text for sociological analysis or even environmental analysis. It also hints at some Marxist theory, which can. also be an option.

Keller Hirsch, Alexander. “Walking off the Edge of the World: Sacrifice, Chance, and Dazzling Dissolution in the Book of Job and Ursula K. Le Guin’s “The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas”.” MDPI, 9 Aug. 2016, Accessed 13 Dec. 2022.

Alexander Keller Hirsch compares Ursula K. Le Guin’s ‘The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas’ and the book of Job, which is a part of the Hebrew Bible. Unlike Firenze, Keller Hirsch instead argues that neither decision is moral and that morality is objective. Keller Hirsch provides justification for both the decision to stay and the decision to leave, arguing that perhaps the decision to leave is more self-sacrificial than the decision to stay. Alexander Keller Hirsch is an Associate Professor of Political Science; Director, Honors Program at the University of Alaska Fairbanks.

Khanna, Lee Cullen. “Beyond Omelas: Utopia and Gender.” Utopian Studies, vol. 2, no. 1/2, 1991, p. p48, Accessed 22 Apr. 2023.

Lee Cullen Khanna walks us through three of Ursula K. Le Guin’s stories and how they depict different interpretations of utopia and the role of gender therein. This study explores how the utopia depicted in “The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas” is built upon “binary oppositions” and explains how, looking through a feminist lens, the Utopian world still retains a more patriarchal slant. By exploring two of Le Guin’s other works, She Unnames Them and Sur, Khanna highlights the importance of gender in “Omelas and Le Guin’s very deliberate identification of some characters, and the assumed gender of the narrator. This article helps the reader gain a better understanding of how Le Guin views gender roles and how through her stories she demonstrates the dangers and issues of many of them.

Knapp, Shoshana. “The Morality of Creation: Dostoevsky and William James in Le Guin’s ‘Omelas.’” The Journal of Narrative Technique, vol. 15, no. 1, 1985, pp. 75–81. JSTOR, Accessed 10 Dec. 2022.

In her article, “The Morality of Creation: Dostoevsky and William James in Le Guin’s ‘Omelas,’” Shoshana Knapp evaluates Ursula K Le Guin’s short story, The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas, in comparison with the ideas that inspired it: a passage written by William James about a fictional place where a society’s happiness and prosperity depends on the suffering of a lost soul, and Russian novelist Fyodor Dostoevsky, who also used this idea. However, she focuses more so on James’ passage than Dostoevsky. In her argument, Knapp offers that, unlike William James’ perception of this situation of moral instinct (that the “nobler thing tastes better”), Le Guin’s idea of Omelas objects to this idea, otherwise the city would be empty. Knapp argues that in doing so, Le Guin has created a much more political parable than it appears to the eye. This article is useful for those studying Ursula K Le Guin’s story, The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas, as it provides useful information on the basis for the story and some of the theory and psychology behind this society and how it relates to the real world. Shoshana Knapp is an associate professor in the Department of English at Virginia Tech with a focus on nineteenth century fiction from America, Britain, France, and Russia. She has a PhD from Stanford and a BA from Barnard College.

Knapp, Steven, and Walter Benn Michaels. “Against Theory 2: Hermeneutics and Deconstruction.” Critical Inquiry, vol. 14, no. 1, 1987, pp. 49–68. JSTOR, Accessed 10 Dec. 2022.

This analysis of deconstructive theory argues that we must assume meaning in the text outside from what the author meant to say. The ideas of hermeneutics and deconstruction are intertwined by meaning outside authors intent, but the main difference between these is that the former allows author intention to mean something, while the latter maintains that language is impossible for the author to totally control, implying that totally accurate interpretations are also impossible. This article argues against the “intentional fallacy,” claiming that authorial intent is removed from a work once it exists in the world. Mainly, this article draws from the idea that literary conventions cannot give meaning alone, and that these conventions can only act as evidence for underlying meaning.

Krapp, Kristine M. Psychologists and Their Theories. Gale, 2004, Accessed 5 December 2022.

Krapp’s book provides information on many different psychologists and their asserted theories, while still maintaining a high level of depth in each psychologist’s individual section. Some of the psychologists covered are Sigmund Freud, Carl Jung, Carl Rogers, and Ivan Pavlov, among many others. Information provided includes details such as the psychologist’s background, principle publications, development of psychological theories, and many subtopics of that which is personally relevant to the specific psychologist. A reader could easily use this text as background information in any pursuits that deal with psychology, especially if the reader is not already well-acquainted with these psychologists. It clearly and concisely explains relevant concepts and has a broad range of information covering almost six hundred pages.

Langbauer, Laurie. “Ethics and Theory: Suffering Children in Dickens, Dostoevsky, and Le Guin.” ELH, vol. 75, no. 1, 2008, pp. 89–108. JSTOR, Accessed 10 Dec. 2022.

This work discusses how the writers Charles Dickens, Fyodor Dostoevsky, and Ursula K. Le Guin use the suffering of children to denounce it. They display it in their work as a way of showing how immoral it is. The author explores how the texts hold up children as the ultimate symbol of innocence, and so any harm to a child is a crime of the greatest nature. When these authors write about children, however, they are actually writing about themselves. The author argues for these works to be self-reflections of the writers themselves, as they see themselves in these children. The work details the traumatic experiences of each of the writer’s lives and how those experiences influenced their world, including quotes from the authors. Le Guin describes her father’s relationship with an Indian man he got out of jail and subsequently gained custody of, and how that relationship impacted the family, even years after his passing. The author also talks about how Le Guin was influenced by Dostoevsky in writing Omelas, although she admits it must have been subconscious as she did not realize it at first. In Omelas, children are used to drive home her critique of utilitarianism, because of their innocence.

Lawall, Sarah. “New Criticism & Contemporary Theory.” English Literature in Transition, 1880-1920, vol. 39, no. 1, Jan. 1996, pp. 98–102. EBSCOhost,

This source reviews a series of publications about New criticism, The New Crticism and Contemporary Literary Theory: Connections and Continuities by William J Spurlin and Micheal Fisher. The publication expands upon the history of the literary theory as well as the reception of it. New criticism gained a lot of ground when it was introduced, but was ultimately decried by opponents of it, saying that it ignores important influences on the text, like historical and biographical factors. Opponents also claim while it claims to be impartial, it falls prey to dogmatic ideals. As controversial as it is, it has sparked new conversations about what criticism should be and what aspects of it are important. The article talks about how New criticism opened the door for more modes of criticism, such as deconstruction. By relying on the text and searching for ironies or ambiguities, it put more focus on the text than the author. Prior to this, there was a large amount of historical criticism dominating the conversation. New criticism is similar to reader response criticism, in that both forms of literary criticism focus on close readings, where the words of a text are closely analyzed for deeper meaning. In other words, reading between the lines.

Le Guin, Ursula K. “The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas.”

Lindow, Sandra J. “Le Guin’s Post-Feminist Carrier Bag Make-Over.” Science Fiction Studies, vol. 37, no. 3, Nov. 2010, pp. p485-490, Accessed 24 Apr. 2023.

Sandra J. Lindow discusses Amy M. Clarke’s book Ursula K. Le Guin’s Journey to Post-Feminism, providing some insight into how Le Guin’s writing portrayed feminist ideals and evolved throughout her writing. Lindow discusses the end of Second Wave Feminism and women to come after subscribing to the name of Third Wave Feminism, or Post-Feminsim. In this discussion, Le Guin’s writing and her own feminist views are examined, giving the reader a better understanding of Le Guin’s world view. This provides a better understanding of where Le Guin’s values were during the writing of “The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas, as the reader can better understand where in her feminist journey Le Guin was at. All of her works have substantial feminist subtexts and influences, but they have evolved overtime, so better understanding her intentionality at the time of writing “Omelas” allows a reader to appreciate the work more.

Rashley, Lisa Hammond. “Revisioning Gender: Inventing Women in Ursula K. Le Guin’s Nonfiction.” Biography: An Interdisciplinary Quarterly, vol. 30, no. 1, 2007, pp. p22-47, Accessed 24 Apr. 2023.

Lisa Hammond Rashley examines the importance of Ursula K. Le Guin and her writing in how they view and play with gender and common gender roles. Le Guin’s views of gender have resulted in much critical acclaim as well as criticism. Rashley discusses how the deliberate nature of Le Guin’s writing, something seen in “The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas”, makes her discussions of gender so impactful. Le Guin very intentionally identifies, or ignores, the gender of her characters, allowing them to break free from typical societal norms, exploring ideas definitely not seen during the time period that she wrote. The context this article provides on how Le Guin wrote gender and how some critics responded to that gives readers a more nuanced, educated approach to “Omelas”, allowing one to better understand why Le Guin chose to gender some characters, and leave others vague.

Spector, Ronald H.. “Vietnam War”. Encyclopedia Britannica, Invalid Date, Accessed 10 December 2022.

Spector focuses his article on the major occurrences and events of the Vietnam War. He begins with the fall of French rule in Vietnam all the way to the fall of South Vietnam. This is for anyone wishing to know general facts about this point in history, with many off-shooting articles that go further in depth about specific events or world players during this war. Anyone who needs or wants to learn more and find facts about the Vietnam War could use this article.

Stein, Murray. Jung’s Map of the Soul. Open Court, 1988, Accessed 5 December 2022.

In his book, Jung’s Map of the Soul, Murray Stein provides the complete scope of Carl Jung’s thought and theories. While Carl Jung is a foundational and well-known psychologist, he is also known for his apparent challenges in formulating his own ideas clearly. Murray Stein provides a clear and easily-understandable approach to many of Carl Jung’s most prevalent theories. These include his perception of the ego and the unconscious, psychic energy, the psyche, and the popular theory of the shadow, the persona, the anima, and the self, among many other concepts. This is a useful text in understanding the complex nature of Jung’s theories and offers a broad range of topics within his collection of ideas. Chapters are broken down into clear, specific sections that allow for the easy location of relevant subject matter. Murray Stein is a Jungian psychoanalyst, author, and lecturer. His literary works focus almost exclusively on Carl Jung and range over many of his theories, showing his credibility on the subject. He is a graduate of Yale, the University of Chicago, and the C.G. Jung Institute of Zurich, and is a notable member of many analytical psychology associations.

Tompkins, Jane. “A Short Course in Post-Structuralism.” College English, vol. 50, no. 7, 1988, pp. 733–47. JSTOR, Accessed 10 Dec. 2022.

The article by Jane Tomkins serves as an analysis of deconstructionist, or post structuralist, theory as a theory that points out the arbitrary and inseparable connection between reads, readers, and readings. Drawing from the lectures of Ferdinand de Saussure and Jacques Derrida, this analysis focuses on the tradition of language as an arbitrary system used for unique identification, and the idea that context gives identity value but that this value is only subjective or communal. This theme is expanded upon with Saussure’s idea that meaning depends on systems, and that words apart from systems lose their meaning. Derrida’s work expands on the idea of undoing the arbitrary rules that allow language to be understood. His use of language shows the difference, disagreement, and deferment of language across cultures, and Saussure’s notion of the evolution of language are synthesized to provide even more insight into how deconstruction is a theory that undoes the idea that theory can unravel texts because of each person’s unavoidable cultural influences.


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Beginnings and Endings: A Critical Edition Copyright © 2021 by Liza Long is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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