Happiness in King’s and Le Guin’s Stories

Pages: 3
Words: 960

Alexandre Dumas once said in his letters, “Happiness is like those palaces in fairy tales whose gates are guarded by dragons” (“Alexandre Dumas Quotes and Sayings”). True joy is impossible without hardships since people can know it only through suffering. The idea of this connection is revealed in “The man who loved flowers” by Stephen King and “The ones who walk away from Omelas” by Ursula Le Guin. The authors created a powerful narrative to show the contrast between the two opposing feelings. Their stories reflect on this interdependence and show it from different angles. The main theme of both stories juxtaposes the relations between happiness and grief, and the characters’ images are drawn vague to focus on this bond. At the same time, writers approach the setting and mood differently, conveying the connection of two feelings through opposite circumstances.

To begin with, in both stories, attention is focused on how the emotions experienced by the characters are related to each other. Firstly, love is the feeling that inspires King’s hero and makes him happy. This is clear since other characters only see him as a man with an air of romance around him. Thoughts and dreams about the lover overshadow his dark soul. Secondly, this is also love that is the cause of his madness. This is proved by his fixation on the deceased Norma and his literal ability to “swung the hammer” at a human being (King 311). Love generates both happiness and sorrow, which is the point of their close relations.

Similarly, in Le Guin’s story, one child suffers to make the people of Omelas happy. The bond between the two feelings is clear when the child’s existence becomes “the true source of the splendor” (Le Guin 284). Residents realize that their ability to recognize joy is possible thanks to their empathy for the child. The link also manifests itself in secondary aspects of life. For example, the lack of amenities in the form of cars is considered inevitable and necessary. A good life can corrupt the sense of happiness, so it needs to be limited. Thus, whatever happiness and sadness are provoked by, they are closely interrelated and sometimes even mutually conditioned.

Next, in both stories, the identity of the characters is unclear and mysterious, since the descriptions are given vaguely. Firstly, the protagonist is seen only through other characters’ eyes, which shows him as a nice young man. It is proved by an old woman who catches herself thinking that “he is in love” (King 306). The reader cannot penetrate the soul of the hero till the very end. Secondly, maintaining the anonymity of the hero also enhances the atmosphere of mystery around his personality. It is clear since he has no name, and the reader is not allowed to know his real thoughts. In this way, the author intensifies the effect of shock, which the reader will experience when he learns the true intentions of the hero.

Likewise, “The ones who walk away from Omelas” does not reveal the narrator’s character to concentrate on a fictional world. This becomes clear since the person on whose behalf the story is being told never appears in the text. The narrator is a connecting thread between the world of Omelas and the readers’ world, but not a physical body with its background. Moreover, this uncertainty is also supported by the image of those who leave Omelas. They are designated just as “the people of Omelas”, and their characteristics are limited to the fact that they are of different ages and genders (Le Guin 283). The vagueness of their image is created to focus the reader’s attention on the world. Overall, both authors resort to the same technique of hiding the true personalities of the heroes to draw attention to more important things.

Finally, King gives the story a specific setting and provides the hero with sharp, easily understandable moods to make his story the closest to the reader. He establishes the boundaries of the era and the place from the first lines. This becomes clear when he claims that the action unfolds “on this soft spring evening, on this avenue, in May of 1963” (King 306). So, the reader clearly understands the situation from the very beginning. Moreover, the setting also determines the inner state of the hero. This becomes clear in the scene of the hero’s personality transition from a good man to a murderer when day also turns into night. The situation fully corresponds to his inner state and displays it to the reader.

In contrast, the setting of “The ones who walk away from Omelas” is completely fictional. This is proved by the words that the city is like a “city in a fairy tale” (Le Guin 281). The very atmosphere of the city is unreal, which is necessary to strengthen the narrator’s philosophical thoughts. Moreover, the mood in the town is unclear and needs to be deciphered. This is proved by the structure of the text, which is a continuous reflection of the narrator. The story shrouds with its illusory air, creating the effect of ambiguity and fluidity. In general, the way to show the setting and mood of Le Guin’s story is completely different from the ones used by King.

Ultimately, both stories agree that the understanding of happiness is closely related to the awareness of grief. In both of them, the key theme is the connection between positive and negative feelings. Both authors do not delve into the characters’ personalities, albeit doing so with different intentions. Also, the authors use the characters’ environment in various ways to convey the message. A person, being a complex social being, can hardly experience feelings without interchanging them, which gives the stories such a contrast.

Works Cited

“Alexandre Dumas Quotes and Sayings” Inspiringquotes, Web.

King, Stephen. The man who loved flowers. Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, 2008.

Le Guin, Ursula K. The ones who walk away from Omelas. New Dimensions, 1973.