A study of the theme and plot in Shirley Jackson’s short story The lottery
The Lottery and Course Themes
The Lottery, which is written by Shirley Jackson was written in the year 1948. The story is very similar to that of Hunger Games, which is a modern movie that most people have seen. In this story, the author tells about a tradition of the village located in New England. The tradition is not like one that most people would assume, rather it is quite wicked in nature. Each year, citizens gather to pick the drawing on slips of paper of who will be sacrificed to death. Over the years, some formalities of this lottery have changed, however, much has stayed the same. Including the idea that citizens are left unaware as to when or why this custom began. This story exhibits both coming of age and disenchanted America dream themes within it. The American dream does not only extend to America, but is moreso a thought or desire. In The Lottery, the children relate to such topics of coming of age, and the disenchanted America dream moreso than adults.
The children in this story are not exempt from the process, nor the consequences of being chosen. There is absolutely no coming of age in this madness. In most cultures and traditions, age defines a lot, however, this villager does not allow even the innocence of a child to not undergo such tragedies. In the beginning, Jackson discusses how the children must choose the stones that will be thrown on the chosen. Children are also informed on the honors of such traditions in their lands. Although, it does not specify when these stories are told, audiences, can assume that, to some degree, the telling of this tradition is their coming of age. I claim this, because once this horrible fate is revealed to them, they lose their previous thoughts that the world is a fair place. They learn the truth of what being of a mature age brings upon, which in this case, could most likely be death.
The American dream is about equal opportunities for a fair life and shot at success. Although, these mechanisms displayed in this story are equal in nature. They fall short of allowing for a successful life. Which, then directly showcases a disenchanted dream. The choosing of a name determines the fate of the young, the old, the married, and unmarried, no one is exempt from this irrational consequence. Coming of age and disenchanted America dream are linked in this story, because once a child reaches this age of learning about these traditions, they no longer are granted the American dream of success and equality. These young people learn, that even if they follow all the rules and regulations of the town, they can be chosen during the lottery and face death.
To some degree, I feel that citizens almost lose hope in situations such as this. I mean, logically thinking, why would one even desire to get old and start a family, knowing well that all of this can be taken from them. This is in no way, shape, or form equality. Equality would include only those who have done serious damage or crimes in the town. Why should an innocent person be condemned to death for no fault of their own, just bad luck. Once these children reach this unidentified age, they have their coming of age. In most cultures, this is a celebratory age, and parties and celebrations conclude, however, these New England children are not granted such events.
Life is not fair, and neither are many of the rules that we must follow. However, nonetheless, these rules are set in stone, and we must learn to live with them. Although, no actual reasoning is provided by the author for such horrific traditions, we can assume, that there was some reason given to these practices. This story shows how not everyone’s coming of age is fun and exciting part of life, however, most people are granted a disenchanted American dream. Because this dream has long been dead, since equality and opportunity no longer exists consistently.
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