The Lottery by Shirley Jackson

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The Lottery by Shirley Jackson

The traditions of a particular community define its way of life and give a long time direction of its activities. In the story, ‘The Lottery’ by Shirley Jackson depicts the theme of tradition through the main event of conducting a lottery every year with the aim of offering one member of the group as a sacrifice. As a result, the farming community was guaranteed a bumper harvest every season. Moreover, tradition seems to prevail without much questioning on its repercussions such as the violation of the rights of human beings. Although in the story a kind of justice seems to exist such that each member of the community had an equal chance of being stoned at any particular time. The practice of the lottery event was a longtime occurrence that perpetuated the form of indemnity against future uncertain events. (Newman et al. p.857). Now that human beings have a restless nature of fearing the unknowns it was necessary for the community to pass on to generations the practice of the lottery event. According to the community addressed in the ‘The lottery story’ each generation has embraced the tradition and only allowing minor changes to be done.

The theme of tradition is clearly brought out when Mrs Hutchinson makes the following comments jokingly, “Thought we were going to have to get on without you, Tessie.” Mrs Hutchinson said, grinning, “would not have me leave the dishes in the sink, now, would you, Joe?’’ the statements leave the crowd in soft laughter (page 635). The statement is a clear indication that Mrs Hutchinson was used to the lottery being carried out and she was aware of its need. A superior power could not control the crowd that just smiled portrayed a lot of tension since the results of the event, yet it was mandatory.

Mr Summer’s statements and language portray the lottery event as any contest that is carried out as a norm of the people in that town. Surprisingly everybody including children had gathered stones and pebbles with so much ease despite their knowledge of what brutality the rocks will cause. A clear impression comes out when people start throwing stones at the mention of Tessie Hutchinson as the final victim. Moreover, the story states that the children had already gathered some heaps of stones. As indicated “the children had stones already. And someone gave little Davy Hutchinson a few pebbles” (page 640). This tradition has so much predominated the society addressed by Shirley Jackson such that nobody bothers to be sympathetic (Shirley). Even blood ties were rarely concerned as we find that Tessie’s young son was at the forefront to throw stones on her.

Old man warner had contributed in the lottery for about seventy-seven whiles as depicted in the story “it is not the way it used to be,” he said openly. “People ain’t that to be.” Based on my opinion people are no longer controlled by human emotion including being sympathetic but instead holds the principle that traditions are vital and always stand regardless of how the situations fail to follow the rules of morality. Generations and passage of time tend to strengthen a tradition no one tends to object the lottery event or consider it as wrong. The people get motivated as the Old Man Warner was articulating, “Come on, and come on, everyone” (page 639). A tradition has blinded this society to the extent that no one can defy from the custom that has existed from the time immemorial. It only seems to dawn on some of them that the practice is wrong when their unexpected chance becomes a reality at hand. The moment Tessie Hutchinson realized that her husband had been chosen, she was so swift to claim that the drawing was not fair (Anderson et al.). Tessie denied that Bill Hutchinson had not been given enough time to take a paper of his choice. At the moment the drawbacks of the tradition were very vivid in her mind.

The black box also symbolizes tradition, Mr Summer had suggested to the people the need of making a new box, but they opposed. The people in town felt that any change to the box could interfere with the tradition. The story indicates “Mr Summer frequently spoke to the residents concerning creating a new box, and however no one enjoyed to distress even as much the custom as was signified by the black box” (page 630). Despite the damage of the custom the emulated black box preserves the community in a specific order. It seems the town would lose direction and control if the tradition came to a halt. The culture had denied the people certain freedom such that all people had to act the same way (Prather and Mary). It seems anyone who would dare to take a different path would be unsafe to stay in the town and more so be considered as a betrayer of the majority.

In conclusion, the overriding lottery theme is a tradition. The lottery event occurs every year, using the same black box, the same brutality, and violence with no significant changes. It is clearly shown that the people believed in losing something for them to make any forward progress. From the story, we learn that the essential thing in life is to live our present to the best since future events are unknown and unpredictable. Although traditions seem to prevail over time, it is also possible to break from its entangling ties. Subsequently, the lottery has revitalized the great need to question the morality of the daily practices of our society. As a reader, I learn how to deal with unexpected situations, how to stand firmly and defy traditional practices that violate human rights.

Works cited

Anderson, Melanie R., and Lisa Kröger, eds. Shirley Jackson, Influences and Confluences. Routledge, 2016.

Jackson, Shirley. The lottery. Wildside Press LLC, 2018.

Newman, Judie. “Ruth Franklin, Shirley Jackson: A Rather Haunted Life (New York: Liveright, 2016,£ 21.25). Pp. xiii+ 607. isbn 978 0 8714 0313 1.” Journal of American Studies 52.3 (2018): 856-858.

Prather, Mary. “Ursula K. LeGuin and Shirley Jackson: Expanding Dystopia’s Definition in the 20th Century.” (2017).