In Shirley Jackson's story, “The Lottery”, she expresses her feelings on why the people of the village blindly follow certain parts of the inhumane tradition, while allowing others to be disregarded without question. For instance, a villager is selected at random to be stoned to death. This conveys the reader to understand some of the traditions were cruel, and allows them to foresee the result of the traditions that took place in the village. Shirley Jackson uses symbolism throughout her story to allow readers to be aware of the pointless nature of humanity in regard to the tradition. Three concepts behind “The Lottery” are family relationships, blind adherence, and rules of the tradition.
Coulthard describes the attitude of the villagers like this: “the others are willing to risk their own lives for the sheer pleasure of an unpunished annual killing” (226). The fact that they are risking their lives for the lottery ritual pushes the nature of it from simple meanness to sadistic malice. The failure to remember the real reason for the ritual has caused this shift in human nature and motive. The ritual of the lottery should have been discontinued at this point because no real reason exists for it.
Traditions are widespread among many different people and cultures; It is an explanation for acting without thinking. Not all traditions are a good thing, though, and blindly following them can lead to harsh consequences. The villagers in a small town in “The Lottery” gather together annually to participate in this tradition, where one person in the town is randomly chosen in a drawing to be violently stoned to death by citizens. It has been around for seventy-seven years and everyone partakes in it. People always attend, showing the importance of tradition amongst the society. However, in the short story, “The Lottery,” Shirley Jackson uses many literary devices to show that traditions are not always meant to be followed.
“The less there is to justify a traditional custom, the harder it is to get rid of it” (Twain). The Lottery begins during the summer. A small, seemingly normal, town is gathering to throw the annual “Lottery”. In the end, the townspeople—children included—gather around and stone the winner to death, simply because it was tradition. The story reveals how traditions can become outdated and ineffective. “I suppose, I hoped, by setting a particularly brutal ancient rite in the present and in my own village to shock the story's readers with a graphic dramatization of the pointless violence and general inhumanity in their own lives” (Jackson). As humans develop as a race, their practices should develop with them. Shirley Jackson develops the
“The Lottery” by Shirley Jackson was written in 1948. The story takes place in a village square of a town on June 27th. The author does not use much emotion in the writing to show how the barbaric act that is going on is look at as normal. This story is about a town that has a lottery once a year to choose who should be sacrificed, so that the town will have a plentiful year for growing crops. Jackson has many messages about human nature in this short story. The most important message she conveys is how cruel and violent people can be to one another. Another very significant message she conveys is how custom and tradition can hold great power over people. Jackson also conveys the message of
Shirley Jackson takes great care in creating a setting for the story, The Lottery. She gives the reader a sense of comfort and stability from the very beginning. It begins, "clear and sunny, with the fresh warmth of a full-summer day; the flowers were blossoming profusely and the grass was richly green." The setting throughout The Lottery creates a sense of peacefulness and tranquility, while portraying a typical town on a normal summer day.
“Chips of wood, Mr. Summers had argued, had been all very well when the village was tiny, but now that the population was more than three hundred and likely to keep growing” (Jackson, 2). The town never had an overpopulation issue, there was never a good enough reason to continue the lottery and even less start it for that matter. The social hierarchy of the town did not allow the people to have a voice and that made them feel intimidated. The people were almost programed and expected to accept and carry this unfair tradition; not because of the meaning of it but because they were scared to ask to let it go in results of things getting worse.
Shirley Jackson’s “The Lottery” is a story littered with warnings and subtext about the dangers a submissive society can pose. While the opening is deceptively cheery and light Jackson uses an array of symbols and ominous syntax to help create the apprehensive and grim tone the story ends with. Her portrayal of the town folk as blindly following tradition represents the world during World War II when people’s failure to not mindlessly accept and heed authority lead to disastrous consequences. . Shirley Jackson uses a large array of techniques to help convey the idea that recklessly following and accepting traditions and orders can lead to disastrous consequences.
3. The Lottery has a feeling of religious orthodoxy in that it is wrapped up in tradition. In many religious traditions a ritual killing of a scapegoat was a way to transfer the burden of sin, or evil, from one being to another. In ancient Jewish tradition, the ritual sacrifice transferred your sin to a lamb, making you clean and worthy again of divine attention. Although Shirley Jackson does not make it clear the need for a scapegoat in her story, the village must provide an annual sacrifice. She makes it clear at several points that the reason for the “lottery” has been forgotten, “although the villagers had forgotten the ritual and lost the original black box…”.
Introduction and overview of the short stories, “The Lottery” by Shirley Jackson and “The Most Dangerous Game” by Richard Connell.
Nebeker, Helen E. “The Lottery’: Symbolic Touch De Force” Short Story Criticism, edited by Jenny Cromie, vol. 39, Gale Group, 2000, 75 vols, pp. 187-90. Originally published in American Literature, vol. 46, no. 1, March, 1974, pp. 100-07.
In both stories, the innocent characters were fighting death at the hands of someone who found the idea of killing another human being to be a game. In “The Lottery” the game of death consumed an innocent life solely because a few individuals founded a tradition; and in “The Most Dangerous Game” the game of death consumed an innocent life solely because one person thought it was merely entertaining. Both authors portrayed the antagonist as friendly, warm and welcoming. In the Lottery, the antagonists were the families whom participated in the drawing of a name that lead to the stoning of another family member (which may or may not be their own family member). In “The Most Dangerous Game” the antagonist was a well-off general who opened his luxurious home to guests who have gone astray from their original destination. Death is the main theme of both short stories and both authors portrayed this dark and dreary idea as a game the characters are playing.
In Shirley Jackson’s “The Lottery”, the small village, at first, seems to be lovely, full of tradition, with the townspeople fulfilling their civic duties, but instead this story is bursting with contrast. The expectations that the reader has are increasingly altered. The title of this short story raises hope, for in our society the term “lottery” typically is associated with winning money or other perceived “good” things. Most people associate winning a lottery with luck, yet Jackson twists this notion around and the luck in this village is with each of the losers.
And now it becomes meaningless, and they are just blindly following the tradition that they have always done. Old Man Warner is the oldest person in the town and have been a part of the lottery for seventy-seven years. He is the only one that strongly believes that the lottery is a good thing and they should never stop doing it. Old Man Warner says, “[There] used to be a saying about ‘Lottery in June, corn be heavy soon.’ First thing you know, we’d all be eating stewed chickweed and acorns.” (52) Old Man Warner talks about how the lottery correlates to the presence of more corn crops, and he strongly states that without the lottery, they would be eating chickweed and acorns. This is probably the original reason for why they started the lottery, it was to have good crops. Old Man Warner is the only one who truly cares about the lottery, the other villagers just do it to follow their tradition. Old Man Warner thinks that “nothing’s good enough for [the people who have stopped the tradition of the lottery.]” (52) He strongly opposes the idea of not having the lottery and he thinks that the people who have stopped it are out of their minds.
In today’s society we perceive the lottery as being a great fortune brought down upon you by Lady Luck. It is a serendipitous event, even if the person has done nothing to earn it. One would never see the lottery as an unfortunate occasion that occurred in your life because it is supposed to bring prosperity into your life. Also, one would not dare to think that winning the lottery would bring such repercussions as injury or death. In the short story “The Lottery” by Shirley Jackson, the author could have used Mrs. Tessie Hutchinson as the town’s scapegoat due to their reluctance to change traditions, her horrible work ethic, and minority status as a woman.