The suffering child at the heart of the story is both its central character and its most important symbol. The details about the child do not reveal personality or character traits, but rather focus on the child’s condition. The narrator describes the child as having once been “normal,” but in a steadily deteriorating state. In other words, if the child is not cared for, it will eventually die. But because Omelas depends upon the complete suffering of this child, the unavoidable conclusion is that once the child dies, it will be replaced by another once-happy child. This fact suggests that the suffering child is not a single person, but instead a position held by a series of unfortunate children. The child is therefore more of a symbol than a character in the story and represents the moral depravity of Omelas’s society and its citizens. The child’s suffering is so extreme and its treatment so cruel that it cannot be ignored, but it also cannot be helped, lest the utopia of Omelas be ruined. Therefore, the suffering child must be explained away and justified. The suffering child of Omelas represents each and every instance of cruelty in the real world and is an indictment of any value system that accepts cruelty and abuse as a necessary part of life.