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Essay on “The Lottery” by Shirley Jackson: A Brutal Tradition

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The famous civil rights activist Martin Luther King Jr. once said: “The ultimate tragedy is not the oppression and cruelty by the bad people but the silence over that by the good people,” capturing the main message of the short story “The Lottery,” by Shirley Jackson, perfectly, because of the themes of peer pressure and tradition present throughout the story. In this story, the people of a small village gather for their annual tradition, a lottery, in which one person is picked at random out of a box containing each of the villagers’ names. The village, which is not specifically named, seems like any other historic village at first, with the women gossiping, the men talking, and the children playing, but soon takes a sinister turn when it…show more content…
None of the villagers dare to question further until they are chosen, when, having nothing to lose, they hypocritically protest. “‘It isn’t fair, it isn’t right,’ Mrs. Hutchinson, [the lottery “winner”], screamed” (Jackson, 58), just as she was about to die. This argument is further supported when Jackson states: “Mr. Summers, [the official of the lottery], spoke frequently to the villagers about making a new box, but no one liked to upset even as much tradition as was represented by the black box” (Jackson, 46). This shows how, even though the black box “grew shabbier each year” (Jackson, 46), the villagers refused to replace it because it represented tradition for them; it represented how much the lottery meant simply because it was a constant, something that did not change. They did not fear change, they feared the consequences of that change. It was easier for them to continue on with the lottery than defy the authority figures bent on maintaining it. As Old Man Warner states: “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” (Jackson, 52). The villagers saw the lottery as a mark of their village, believing that removing it would bring doom.
In conclusion, the lottery serves no purpose in the story “The Lottery,” and instead serves as a reminder of human hypocrisy and the dangers of blindly following tradition. It is no
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