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Changing the lives of Others

MadamPresident's picture


Changing the Lives of Others


            In the earlier portion of this class, my peers and I were asked to read a passage by Ursula Le Guin, entitled “The ones Who Walk Away from Omelas.” In this text in order for the society to function as a utopia, or for everyone to be happy, one child was to suffer, and stay where he/she was being detained from the outside world for as long as the Omelas people desired. In so many words these people decided the course of this child’s life and instead of allowing he/she to live normally they decided it was best for the child suffer, so that everyone else could be happy.

In the novel, All Over Creation, this is exactly what the main character does, though her impact on those in her life was not intentional. In contrast to what takes place in the story of the Omelas, in All Over Creation it my belief that the main character, represents the people that walk away, and the people that she left behind represent the child, who suffer from her decision. I found this ironic because unlike the child who was being detained, Yumi made the choice leave on her own. These two stories are different, but the principle is the same; in order for someone to flourish, one has to suffer. By making the decision to leave, Yumi gets the opportunity to flourish and all those around her get to suffer great loss.

            Some might argue that Yumi’s decision to go had no impact on those around her and that the sequence of events that took place were just bad luck, but Yumi’s choice to leave not only affected the identities of those around her, it altered their lives.  In the years to come, Yumi impacts her parents, her best friend as well as her best friend’s family and even her own children. I will begin by analyzing the impact that Yumi had upon her parents.

Lloyd, whom is her father, is known for his vast acres of land and the $9 potatoes, later he is known as the man who has leased his land, is slowly dying, and who lost his daughter. The year of 1975 is the year that Lloyd leases over half his acreage. “That was the year after Yummy ran away. He had a heart attack. His first one.” (Ozeki p. 18). This sentence led me to believe that when Yumi left, she took a piece of Lloyd with her. At first I believed that Yumi’s decision impacted her father more than her mother, but later I realized how wrong I was. Momoko, kept in touch with Yumi, even after she left, up until she began to lose her memory. Momoko functions off the signs that Lloyd has created for her to remember the names of things, but she never forgets Yumi, and her mind choses to believe that Yumi is still home. It was interesting to see that Momoko’s mind almost literally snapped back in place at the sight of Yumi entering the hospital. It was if the return of Yumi, opened the doors to the return of Momoko’s mind.

Yumi impacted her parents in many ways, but she also impacted the life of her child hood friend, Cass. Upon the day that Yumi departed Cass received the worst end of it. Expecting to find out the location of Yumi, Lloyd visits Cass, and in an attempt to forcibly remove the information from Cass, her father whipped her. The saddest part of all is that Cass really didn’t know where Yumi had gone. “My daddy uses to say you were a bad seed. You took all the luck away from here, Yummy. All the life and the luck. You didn’t leave anything behind.” (Ozeiki p. 79). This excerpt from the passage strengthens my argument that Yumi, affected the lives of those around her. When Yumi left, Cass forgot who she was, instead she began the person who had survived breast cancer, not been able to get pregnant, lost her parents, and takes care of Yumi’s parents. Life for Cass was altered and she still has not gained the identity that she is seeking. Instead her optimism is blocked my misfortune.

I mention that Yumi’s decision to leave not only affected Cass, but Cass’ family as well. Lloyd reluctantly leased his land to Cass’ father, once he became too ill to tend to the potatoes and seeds himself. The problem with this was that the land began to fail, and therefore Cass’ father went bankrupt. He not only lost his money, he began to lose the only thing that could help him regain it.

Lastly I mention Yumi’s children. It is my belief that Yumi’s children are living proof to her father that she can preserve life, even when you are not ready to take on the responsibility.  Yumi had an abortion and her father and she did not see eye to eye about the manner. Yumi was determined to prove that she did cared about the living, the problem was Yumi often time lost sight of what being a parent is all about. Yumi, has three very different, but very much alive children. Cass her best friend has none. Cass takes care of the children while they visit in a much more motherly manner than Yumi does. Even her eldest son acts as guardian for his younger siblings and this emphasized my argument even more; maybe had Yumi stayed she would not have gotten pregnant by three different men, birthing three different children that she was not ready to care for.

Life is precious, and sometimes it is important to acknowledge the effect that you have on the lives of others.


Anne Dalke's picture

I’m especially tickled by your increasing ability to link earlier texts with present ones—I like your looping back to older material in order to illuminate new portions of our current readings. You make a very strong claim here that Ozeki’s main character, Yumi, “walks away” from Liberty Falls, and in so doing replicates the decision of “Those Who Walk Away from Omelas” in LeGuin’s short story. Yumi leaves her parents, and her best friend, rather than a suffering child, but you argue that “the principle is the same; in order for someone to flourish, one has to suffer.” (There are other examples in the novel: Charmey’s death seems to be required, in order for Cass to finally become a mother L)

Placing Yumi’s decision in a social and familial context (rather than celebrating it as the act of an independent individual, trying for more freedom) certainly complicates it. You end by saying that “it is important to acknowledge the effect that you have on the lives of others”—which is of course a broad (and judgmental J) claim. What if you took this back to “The Ones Who Walk Away”? Do you read their decision differently now, in light of Ozeki’s novel? (That is, could you make this analysis bi-directional?) Do those characters shirk their responsibility? What consequences does their leaving have on the town?

One small writing note. You say, “I will begin by analyzing the impact that Yumi had upon her parents.” You needn’t tell me “what you will do”; just do it!

We’ll need to think together, in conference this week, about your next paper: does this draft have an emergent third one in it (one that you really can “grow”)? Might you want to write about the phenomena of the “all mixed up” children in Ozeki’s novel and beyond? Or might you be ready to start drafting a new paper about The Collapse of Civilization?