The Lottery and Other Stories
The Danger of Ritual and Tradition in “The Hunger Games” and “The Lottery”
“The Hunger Games” by Suzanne Collins and the short story “The Lottery” by Shirley Jackson both illustrate the dangers of blindly following ritualized practices and traditions. The stories involve the use of an institutionalized drawing system, one which is employed to blindly choose a sacrifice for the respective societies. “The Hunger Games” uses a system entitled, the reaping, which is used to select two adolescents to participate in a gladiatorial battle to the death. Similarly, in “The Lottery,” the lottery system enables a town to single out a sacrifice that is subsequently stoned. Both systems utilize a combination of mood and dialogue, references to the chaos prior to the order, and the characterization of authority figures to portray the outcomes of communities thoughtlessly submitting to the practices of tradition. The results of these systems are that individual members of that community are made to bear the consequences.
In both narratives, the societies treat the lottery and the reaping with an attitude of deference and veiled apprehension. The mood surrounding these events demonstrates the communities’ feelings of anxiety toward the ceremonies, despite apparent unwillingness to change them. In each story, the writers establish a foreboding mood through the demeanor and dialogue of the characters. Characters joke before the events, but gradually become more solemn as the drawings get closer. In “The Hunger Games,” Gale and Katniss laugh while they mimic the ceremony and its leader Effie Trinket. However, Katniss notes that they only joke “because the alternative is to be scared out of your wits” (6).
Correspondingly, the townspeople in “The Lottery” smile and make small talk, “speaking of planting and rain” (1). This nervous attitude becomes increasingly solemn as the ceremonies approach, and is meant to serve as a veil for the underlying feelings of fear towards what the reaping and lottery represent, the idea of impending sacrifice and death for the people selected. In both stories, the reactions of the characters toward the formalities of the services indicate that they are overly familiar with the rites of the traditions. In “The Lottery,” the townspeople are complacent during the reading of the directions, “had done it so many times that they only half listened” (3). The repetition of this ensures that they have internalized its rituals. In “The Hunger Games,” the mayor also reads “the same story every year” at the reaping, and all of the members of the community are familiar with the history of the Games and the back story, as well as the rituals of the ceremony itself. In the stories, characters all share a similar feeling of dread toward the rituals, but the events are so institutionalized that no one attempts to question them.
In each story, authority figures utilize references to past chaos to emphasize why rituals are important in maintaining order and preventing backsliding. Old Man Weaver functions as this figure for the townspeople in “The Lottery,” and he notes that if institutions like the lottery were not in place, they might revert to an uncivilized lifestyle, and return to “living in caves” (4). His justification is that “there has always been a lottery,” and he relies solely on the foundations of the importance of tradition to support his claims (4). Likewise, in “The Hunger Games,” the mayor alludes to the “Dark Days” and the disorder of the uprisings before the implementation of the Hunger Games (16). The references to past chaos serve to underscore how figures of authority employ fear to manipulate a collective into blindly following traditions rather than thinking for themselves.
In both stories, the characterization of authority figures connected to the rituals demonstrates how the societies have come to accept the control that these figures and corresponding institutions have over them. In “The Lottery,” the authority figure is Mr. Summers, who serves as a spokesperson for the function. Jackson describes him as jovial, but makes it clear that the townspeople feel sorry for him, because his wife is a nag. Despite this, Mr. Summers also “seemed very proper and important” as he fulfills his duty, which illustrates how the town views the importance of the lottery. This significance is attached to Mr. Summers, who gains authority through association (2). Similarly, in “The Hunger Games,” Effie Trinket, the Capitol’s liaison to the reaping, is “bright and bubbly” in a way that makes her seem ridiculous (17). However, her involvement in the reaping ensures that the community will not question her role in the ceremony or her status. In the stories, the characters who are chosen in the drawings, Mrs. Hutchinson in “The Lottery” and Katniss and Peeta in “The Hunger Games,” fall outside of the realm of authority, and as a result, their communities blindly accept their fates, and their almost definite death sentences.
In “The Lottery” and “The Hunger Games” Shirley Jackson and Suzanne Collins, respectively, use mood and dialogue, references to disorder before the ceremonies, and the characterization of authority figures to illustrate the consequences of communities blindly submitting to rituals. In both narratives, individual members of these societies are forced to endure the horrific outcomes of the lottery and the reaping, because their societies thoughtlessly accept the importance of tradition, and their own unwillingness and powerlessness in instigating change.
Symbolism in The Lottery by Shirley Jackson
Shirley Jackson’s, “The Lottery,” is saturated with the use of symbolism. Symbolism is practiced to represent something else. It helps construct significance and feeling in a story by causing the reader to make connections between the piece of literature and the real world. Sometimes it can be very difficult to find the fundamental connotation that the author is trying to get across. Symbols can be very unmistakable or cruelly conceptual which makes the audience stretch the horizon of their minds. Each icon that is identified in, “The Lottery,” can be interpreted as standing for several different things. Correspondingly, there are at least three different categories of symbols used by Jackson in this story alone.
Taking the lottery itself as an illustration, there is a minimum two distinctive viewpoints that can be represented by this one object. First, it could carry the notion of governmental corruption. Inside this story, the lottery is articulately premeditated. There are guidelines and expectancies that must be obeyed at all cost, just like we uncover in the government currently. Each day, week, and year Americans are forced to complete, vote for, and undertake duties that go against their core beliefs for the sake of the government and its officials. Afraid to push against the status quo, more and more laws and regulations are being formed that are, in turn, corrupting the nation. This is correlated to the theme of being forced into doing heinous things because higher authorities make it to where you are required to implement them. Immediately this could be taken into relation with the film, The Purge. Mass anarchy is spread over the entire country because crime was made legal. Who said this was okay? Only the government executives but they were offered protection just like Mr. Summers and Mr. Graves were in the story. They had power within their community and did not have to partake; they were granted immunity! Not one person, despite their phony façade, would elect to participate in the lottery under normal circumstances. However, because these people were involuntarily pushed into supporting this occasion, they formed a mental barrier that primed themselves into considering it acceptable and ordinary to exercise this manner of torment. The higher ups were looking out for their best interests, right? They had been brainwashed! It became clear that one could break this barricade down by placing one in danger. When Mrs. Hutchinson was confronted with hazard, she immediately began to blame other people, and she renounced the lottery all together. Her husband’s response was for her to be silent. He continued to go through the motions because it was what had to be done. The administration told him he had to, so he, without hesitance, did his part even when the going got rough.
The next item that could be traced back to being symbolized by the lottery is community traditions. Individuals that inhabit this village become unseeing to the wicked ritual that is taking place right under their noses. When the annual date of the lottery rolls around, the people numbly take part because of what is expected of them and what they are used to. No reaction, contemplation, emotion, etc. is exhibited by these people. They modestly pause their day-to-day lives to heed the lottery’s wrath. Do they not see the evil in their actions? How could one become accustomed to such a horrible thing? One would reason that this would be customary to only this settlement; however, the lottery is happening in villages all around them. Some even take up for the ceremonious custom by testifying that nearby places, which have exonerated the incident, were imprudent to do so. Eventually, one man justifies the event by stating, “There’s always been a lottery.” Just because something has always taken place makes it right? Why will someone not stand up for what they know is right? Over time is wrong made right? “Everyone is doing it, so we cannot be left out or seem different,” one can almost hear them whisper. It is what is familiar; it is what has come to be anticipated. One is required to weigh the morals of the traditions that we follow whilst analyzing Jackson’s work. Linked to this notion is the theme of blindly following tradition. Did the people even know why they were taking part in the lottery? There was even a reference made by a character that led you to believe that they did not know where, when, or why the lottery had begun. Still, no-one called this suspicious act into question! There is no motivation that the lottery should even be still in practice. They continue to have it because they have always had it. It seems that the lottery forms the foundations of this town. This becomes their justification for their actions. They do not want to be in the wrong, so they do not question motives and blame it all on tradition.
These two views of symbolism are both connected to the use of symbolism from an object in the story. Many more times, Jackson uses objects to connect themes and express feelings about her story’s contexts. Matters like this include things such as the black box. These artifacts from the story are meticulously established to contribute to the themes of the story. They all are united to a section in the world that makes the reader form conclusions, questions, and associations. The black box epitomizes corrupt laws of the land and the misrepresented relationship the people have with them. The color brings a threatening mood to the reader. Upon evaluation of the situation, one can build the realization that the town’s destiny lies in the box. The slips of paper that reveal the fate of someone resides in it. If the lottery is the government, then the box has to be the decrees. It is a rule of the lottery, and a tradition of it, that this box is used. Just how the government puts regulations in place to meet their agendas, the box is used to carry out the agenda of the lottery. Without the box, a controlling, regulated sense would not be recognized. If the lottery is the traditions, then the box would denote the values of the people. It is mentioned within the story that the box was becoming withered. With each year that passes, the box has more and more splinters. This is connected to the fact that people’s values were becoming “splintered” for the sake of the lottery. Every year that goes by, the people are allowing more perversion to enter into their lives.
Not only can you use objects as symbols, but you can also effectively contribute to a piece by using characters as similar tools. The characters of the Delacroix family, for example, denote the church. Their name, literally, means of the cross which brings thoughts of religion into the mix of Jackson’s writing. Appearing over and over again, this family is a friend to all, so it seems. They are kneaded together with the rest of the community, yet they follow the traditions and customs made by the officials even when their friends are put at risk. “Are they true friends?” one might ask. This leads to the connection that the church can be imaged as a positivity occupied haven for the community but can become damaging due to external immorality. In this case, the corruption was disguised as a tradition. Ironic, owed to the element that traditions are usually blameless undertakings that convey joyfulness to all who experience them.
Possibly, you could find the representation of death in Mr. Graves. He is the leader of the extravagant event. He does not play a significant part in this story, but like true death, presides over people, lurking in the background seeking whom he may devour. Within his town he has power as the postmaster, and he uses that power to give authority to Mr. Summers to conduct the lottery. This relates to the theme that society is pushing their sins onto one who bears all the consequences. Society purges their wrongdoings away from themselves and always looks for a fall-guy. In the story, this ends up being Tessie Hutchinson. She ultimately meets her doom. Mr. Graves could be considered the provider of this bad outcome because without him, the proper authority would not be given. Without him, there would be no death!
As hard as it might be to believe, there is actually one more type of symbol that can be identified; numbers can be used to signify a deeper meaning. The stool that the black box of tragedy is placed upon has three legs. Since the box is a depiction of demise and gloom, the three legs could be each a portion from the Christian theory of the Divine Trinity. This concept holds true to being three in one. This can be understood as the crown of the stool that bonds each leg together. Once more, Jackson uses her symbolism as a key to religion. One leg would be seen as the Father while the other two trailed as the Son and Holy Ghost. If a believer of God, one would know that the Trinity embraces all the supremacy of the earth. Everything rests in its hands. This can be reestablished as how the stool holds up the vital component to the lottery, the black box.
Additionally, luck is transported to attention when Old Man Warner voices his age. He has made it to the great age of seventy-seven. Most individuals comprehend that good fortune is coupled with the number seven. Throughout American civilization and tradition, seven is supplementary with being the luckiest of all numbers. Due to this detail, one can frequently locate sevens pictured with four leaved clovers around St. Patrick’s Day. In the story, there is not only one seven declared but two. This instantly doubles the extent of blessing that Old Man Warner has. Plus, he enthusiastically confesses to having the luck of the draw. The odds have been in his favor throughout the years. He has been able to grow to a ripe age without ever being effected by the lottery. This emphasizes what kind of luck this man possesses. He has been fortunate to not reap the penalties of such a ghastly occurrence.
Optimistically speaking, one is now readily capable to pick out the different styles of symbols that can be unmasked during a story. Likewise, be vulnerable to various alternatives of what each thing could represent. As long as the verification in the text can back up opinions, no one should be anxious to voice what they sincerely sense is being indicated. Jackson used objects, characters, and numbers to initiate internal reactions and shape a deeper gist for her story. Each one enhances meaningful weight to the themes exhibited in her labor, and she uses her symbols to unveil religious, governmental, and community issues present within society. No one distinguishes what might have been the motivating trigger for Jackson to write this piece, but it is easy to perceive that she aspired to bring the tribulations that she suffered throughout her life to light and make them relevant to the eyes and hearts of her readers everywhere.
Social Stratifications and Racial Presumptions in “After You, My Dear Alphonse”
“Racism is not about how you look, it’s about how people assign meaning to how you look.” (Robin Kelley, an American History Professor at the University of California, Los Angeles)
People tend to judge each other based on social constructions that society has subconsciously implemented. Race itself is merely a concept, yet individuals in a society use stereotypes to isolate each other negatively based on the singular discrepancy of skin pigment. Racism has stemmed from generational long discriminations of others’ physical differences, until we as a society are able take away the labels we implement onto these visual barriers, prejudice will remain a problem. In the short story “After You, My Dear Alphonse” by Shirley Jackson, readers follow the story of a mother meeting her son’s friend for the first time. Upon finding that the boy’s ethnicity is African-American, the mother begins to negatively assume all the aspects of his life. She goes on to inquire about the child’s own personal lifestyle, displaying extreme condescensions that have negatively undermined outcomes for her own self betterment. Through Mrs.Wilson’s interrogation of Boyd, the author discusses racial conceptualizations and reveals presumed cultural distinctiveness in racial groups create barriers between positive communication.
Racism is not always violent, yet its subtle actional forms are just as distinctive. Apparent from when Mrs. Wilson first met Boyd, a sense of prudence was evident in her mannerisms. She would ask question after question about his own personal lifestyle, seeming to already have a negatively spiraled theory about what his life was like in her head. Jackson writes, “She [Mrs.Wilson] hesitated. ‘Does he [Boyd’s father]… work?’ ‘Sure.’ Johnny said. ‘Boyd’s father works in a factory.’ ‘There you see?’ Mrs.Wilson said. ‘And he certainly has to be strong to do that-all that lifting and carrying at a factory. ‘Boyd’s father doesn’t have to,’ Johnny said. ‘He’s a foreman.’ Mrs.Wilson felt defeated.” Mrs.Wilson had preliminary presumptions that Boyd’s father was unemployed, due to the historically wrong stereotype of black identifying people to be “inherently lazy”. Upon learning that his father does indeed work, and in fact that he works in the factory business, she then goes on to assume that his father is in the manual labor force. This, combined with her suggestively racist remarks about whether he was employed or not, indicated her beliefs that his family was in the lower class. Yet, Boyd states that his father had more of of a supervising job, rather than one of manual labor. In result, Mrs.Wilson takes this new information intimidating to herself personally. In an attempt to check off the low class stereotypes for his own family, she then proceeds to ask more rounds of wrongly discriminative questions about the way that he lives his life. As each question and answer goes by, Mrs.Wilson acquires a petty bitterness to the way that she talks to Boyd. The act of asking such closed minded questions about Boyd’s personal life signifies that racial discriminations are founded by underlying cruelness of character.
Charitable actions towards those of a lower class have givers with alternative motives. Mrs.Wilson displays extreme dissatisfaction when learning that Boyd’s family is as well-off financially as her own. Annoyed that she cannot show support for the boy money-wise, she offers him secondhand clothing, with the presumption that while his father may work, Boyd didn’t have all the clothes he needed. Boyd then, respectively, puts down the offer, stating that he has everything he needs, and is able to buy all else that he wants. Mrs.Wilson’s personality then turns sour with distaste. Jackson writes, “Mrs.Wilson lifted the plate of gingerbread off the table as Boyd was about to take another piece. ‘There are many little boys like you, Boyd, who would be very grateful for the clothes someone was nice enough to give them.’ … ‘Don’t think I’m angry, Boyd. I’m just disappointed in you, that’s all. Now let’s not say anymore about it.’” Mrs.Wilson’s change of demeanor turned frustrated, into a form of irritation against Boyd. Ostensibly, she tells Boyd that he has not angered him, yet this is exactly what he has done. Mrs.Wilson was looking to be the charitable upperclass woman to Boyd; often times, xenophobic, or racist people, believe that anything they do for another racially diverse person will positively benefit the individual, regardless if this is true or not. She wanted the boy to be that character, she deeply wanted to make herself feel superior to him by aiding him through his “apparent struggle in life”. Mrs.Wilson’s false charity highlights the racist stratifications that are placed towards those who are labeled as racially inferior.
Insinuations of racist beliefs cause harmful biases towards different racial groups than of personal experience. Throughout Mrs.Wilson’s interaction with the two boys, it is evident how racially sectarianism her beliefs are. Not only is does she feel personally obligated to make herself seem notably higher in social class and privilege, but she feels the necessity to be a charitable leader towards Boyd. In fact, the first clear sign of her racist beliefs were noticeable in the first interaction where she was in the visual vicinity of Boyd, even before their verbal exchanges. Jackson writes, “As she [Mrs.Wilson] turned to show Boyd where to sit, she saw he was a Negro boy … Mrs.Wilson turned to Johnny. ‘Johnny,’ she said, ‘what did you make Boyd do?” The short story’s sequence of events, directly after, begins to fall down a hole of contemptuousness. Mrs.Wilson is clearly one of racist beliefs. Her dislike of Boyd grows stronger and stronger, each question of hers that is answered adds to the fundamental grudge that she is building up. Soon every question she seemingly asks has multiple negative connotations behind them. The act of housing such strong racist beliefs illustrates how implicit racism is internecine.
Due to Mrs.Wilson’s interrogative behavior towards Boyd, the author discusses ethnical discrimination and reveals that atypical conceptions of what is normal in different ethnic groups creates impediments towards creating emotional connections. Through Mrs.Wilson’s constant racist remarks, one can establish that racial inequalities are due to a person’s wrongful perception of themselves being naturally superior to another individual.
Human Morality in The Lottery by Shirley Jackson
Humanity is best known for confusing one thing for another and doing things in the name of following cultural guidelines or social expectations. But, is that action justified? Is it even a rational mindset? Most times, such behavior is very harmful and dangerous to individuals. That is why it is important to analyze how, if, and why that behavior is acceptable or unacceptable. In the short story The Lottery Shirley Jackson uses imagery, irony, and symbolism in order to assert that human morality is heavily dependent on the desires and expectations of the individual and ultimately the society in which the individual is a part of.
Jackson starts the narrative as any narrative should be started, by introducing the setting. This is helpful in the lines of developing the themes due to the background that the setting provides us with. In the beginning of the short story she is setting up the layout for the Lottery and she informs us that “The children assembled first, of course,” (Jackson). This allows the audience both insight to the attitudes toward the lottery and the process of the lottery, itself. The attitudes shown through the children can be seen as eager or even excited, considering that “Bobby Martin had already stuffed his pockets full of stones,” (Jackson). Even if the villagers want to deny it, they are eager and excited to get the lottery started. What is even worse about it is that it obviously starts at a young age.
Not only does setting play a role in developing this theme, but so does irony. There are several examples of irony throughout the text that show the unpredictable nature of human behavior. At the beginning, as everybody assembled, there were some signs of some affection and caring for one another. There was even some hesitance, later, when Steve Adams began talking about how other villages had stopped doing the lottery. However, later, he becomes more than supportive of the ritual when Tessie Hutchinson became the set target of the violence and “[he] was in the front of the crowd,”(Jackson). This is an ironic twist and further proves the villagers to be cruel, because Adams discussed the idea of quitting the lottery so long as he was at risk. As soon as the air has been cleared, and somebody else turns out to be the victim, he seems to be all to excited about ending the ceremony and going out on a strong note. Other people pick up on his excitement as well, “Such heavy-handed ironic twists imply that there is no such thing as communal love, or even sympathy, in the human heart,” (Coulthard). Which happens to be a pretty accurate inference. Also, Tessie Hutchinson is responsible for an ironic twist of her own. She, however, starts the story with a negligence toward the people. She seems as if she does not really care what happens either way. Nonetheless, when the tables are turned she seems as if she changes her attitude completely screaming “‘It isn’t fair, it isn’t right,’” (Jackson) just before they were upon her. This ironic twist serves to prove, once again, how people’s mindset can be affected under pressure.
Symbolism also plays a huge role, as the symbols throughout the story provide a form of mainstay for the theme. There are several symbols throughout The Lottery, one of the most prominent being the stones. We are first introduced to the stones in the beginning of the text as the people begin to assemble. After that, the stones re-occur, making them symbols. One of the first instances of the stones is in the beginning when the children are gathering and
“Bobby Martin had already stuffed his pockets full of stones, and the other boys soon followed his example, selecting the smoothest and roundest stones; Bobby and Harry Jones and Dickie Delacroix—the villagers pronounced this name ‘Dellacroy’—eventually made a great pile of stones in one corner of the square and guarded it against the raids of the other boys,” (Jackson).
The stones are unadvanced weapons or tools, making them primitive. Even more so, they are given to children, and the children are eager to gather them as well, symbolizing human instinct for violence. Especially if the children are aware of the fact that the stones they have chosen are “The ones best for accurate throwing,” (Coulthard) as Coulthard implies. If they have an extension of knowledge on the subject, then there is a reason they have it. Coincidentally, there is another example of symbolism, the marked slip of paper. Jackson best describes it as “[Having] a black spot on it, the black spot Mr. Summers had made the night before with the heavy pencil in the coal company office.” (Jackson). This little paper says a lot more about the story than people infer. The paper is a symbol that is representative of how easy it is for the people to literally take somebody else’s life into their own hands. Also, if the people wished to end the tradition they easily could, however they allow the violence to continue.
Primarily, Jackson conveys a theme that not many people pick up on. Jackson’s spin on the concept of morality and humanity is a dark one, as she makes implications that people will do what is expected of them, so long as it does not cause them any harm. Jackson makes the implication that people are selfish and that society is cruel with the help of a few literary devices.
Tessie’s Revenge in The Lottery, a Short Story by Shirley Jackson
The crowd of villagers threw the stones at Tessie with all their might. “NO! Stop it! Please!” Tessie shouted with tears in her eyes. ”What’s happening?” Little Davy asked Mr. Hutchinson. With tears falling down his face, Mr.Hutchinson said “Oh, it’s nothing you have to worry about. Just stand behind me until this is over.” Bill Jr and Nancy began throwing the stones ever so softly because they could not have concentrated knowing what is happening to their mother.
“Come on! Throw them harder!” Old Man Warner shouted above the crowd. “No wonder the other towns quit the lottery,” Nancy said as she covered her face, not letting anyone see the tears in her eyes. Bill Jr and Nancy turned away from the crowd, not being able to look at the terrifying crowd. “Why didn’t anyone stop this? They all know it’s wrong, but they still choose to kill an innocent person every single year!” Bill Hutchinson shouted at the crowd, but no one paid any attention, as they were all too busy throwing stones. Soon enough, the torture was over. It seemed like hours and hours to the Hutchinsons. They couldn’t bear looking at the remains of Tessie Hutchinson.
They gathered around Tessie, checking if she was still alive, which is very rare in some cases the years before. “She’s gone” Bill Hutchinson whispered. He carried Tessie in his arms towards the cemetery. It was a very far walk across the town, but it was worth it, in honor of Tessie. The children watched how their very own father, Bill Hutchinson began to bury their mother. Bill dug and dug with all his might, tears blurring his vision, but he kept going as fast as he could. As soon as Bill finished, he and the children began walking back towards their home.
Meanwhile, a couple of minutes after Bill and the kids went home, Tessie’s hand struck out of the dirt. Old Man Warner, he was walking by, saw Tessie’s hand and ran as fast as he could, even though it wasn’t that fast due to his old age. He pulled her out of the dirt, as she gasped for air. He took her back to his house to clean herself up. They began walking, Old Man Warner wrapped Tessie’s arm around his shoulder and supported her while they were walking. “I thought you were dead. What happened? Why were you buried?” He asked her. Wincing after each step, she managed to say, “ I do not remember. I passed out during the ritual.”
Old Man Warner felt guilty after throwing stones at her, so he tried his very best to get everything she needed, but she will never forget what he did or forgive him. At Old Man Warner’s house, she took a bath while Old Man Warner started to set up dinner. When Tessie was done, she snuck out of the bathroom as quiet as a mouse. She went into the kitchen and grabbed a knife. She then crept up behind Old Man Warner and got her revenge. She left a letter on his body and ran towards the forest and was never seen again.
Shirley Jackson’s The Lottery
Shirley Jackson’s 1948 short story ‘The Lottery’ is an exploration of what it means to belong, or not belong, to a culture and set of traditions. Jackson sets the scene comfortably, describing a traditional little village from the 1920s to the 1940s, where everyone knows everyone, children play together, women and men talk in a naturally segregated manner due to the differences in their daily lives. Men, in this traditional world, hold political power. It may not be ideal for a modern reader like you or me; still, to the average reader in the late 1940s and early 1950s, fresh out of two world wars and presented with a steadily stabilizing economy, this peaceful little conservative village would be considered idyllic. And that was the point of it. Although Shirley Jackson outlines what for many of her readers would have been a perfect life, she uses it to draw sharp contrasts between our apparent civility and the barbarism of unquestioned cultural traditions.
The culture after WWII was one that Americans were proud of. We today see ourselves as a society that has surpassed racial segregation, the oppression of women and the criminalization of homosexuality. And we are proud of ourselves for this: we have achieved much and can look back and see progress. Likewise, people who lived in the aftermath of two world wars saw themselves as the proud victors against injustice. Rather than accept the new steps they had taken and look for more ways to improve, many people assumed they had achieved just the right amount of justice and power. Shirley Jackson calls this into question by designing a beautiful little village, what we now consider the 1950s ideal, where the residents believe they have achieved the ideal measure of progress, despite engaging in a tradition which would be seen as barbaric by most of Jackson’s audience. She describes natural life bursting forth from the ground on the “morning of June 27th”, “the fresh warmth of a full-summer day” in the air and flowers “blossoming profusely”. She goes on to describe people gathering in the square, in much the same way some people gather for religious celebrations or for political processes. They are quiet, maybe a little nervous, but enjoying the weather and each other’s company. A true sense of community is built in a few paragraphs before the lottery begins to take place.
The lottery itself is ambiguous; however, it inspires a sensation of wariness, of dread in most readers. This is mostly because a modern reader is aware of this horror technique. We are very familiar with the “too good to be true” trope used, where sweet little children are really horrific monsters and the nicest person is the killer. To the target audience in 1948, this story may have been a little unsettling, due to its portrayal of a custom they did not understand. However they would have been far less likely to see where the story would end up than we are today. Instead, the unease is created by xenophobia, a questioning of foreign cultures — which is exactly what Jackson intended. By making the readers consider why they are not comfortable with the town’s traditions, Jackson begins to open them up to evaluate their own customs. This is further enhanced by the dissenting voices in the audience. Throughout the story the townsfolk express wariness about the tradition, with some wondering why it ought to be done and others mentioning that many towns have stopped drawing their lotteries. And just as with any tradition, several voices uphold it. Old Man Warner rejects any questioning and dismissively says that “[p]eople ain’t the way they used to be” when he hears the village wishing that the victim of the lottery would not be a young girl.
The only character to remain strongly, actively against the lottery is Tess Hutchinson. Not only does she arrive late as she “clean forgot what day it was”, but as she sees that her family has been narrowed down by the lottery, she turns against local concepts of justice, declaring the lottery is “not fair”. Although it is easy to see that her complaints come from a perspective of preserving herself and her children, rather than from a place of true justice, it is worth noting that nobody who has not been affected opposes the lottery. In that town everyone is selfishly and blindly adhering to the tradition. Yet Tess’s selfishness does not change the fact that the lottery is, to most people’s eyes, unfair. The random selection and killing of an innocent townsperson, for whatever reason given, offended people in 1948 as much as it offends us today. But the same defenses used to support modern traditions can easily be used to support the lottery tradition as well: they have always done it, it has significance, it only affects a few people, it’s all down to luck, nobody is targeted.
In the end the reader is presented with the scene of Tess Hutchinson’s death, with is a stark reminder of what could happen if we were to always leave our traditions unquestioned. ‘The Lottery’ and its message are as pertinent today as they were in 1948. Every generation of our society believes it has overthrown the worst generation before it and that its traditions and concepts of justice and fairness are the right ones. ‘The Lottery’ shows us that no matter who we are or what we have overcome in our pasts, there may always be room for improvement. We should not leave our traditions unquestioned just because they do not hurt us personally.
The Lottery by Shirley Jackson summary
The events of “The Lottery” border on the absurd. Nevertheless, the story cries out for interpretation on several levels. Shirley Jackson has skillfully used the elements of several ancient rituals to create a tale that touches on the character of ritual itself and the devastating effects of mob psychology.
At the heart of the story is one of the oldest concepts of humankind: the notion of the scapegoat. Ancient civilizations often conducted a ceremony in which the evils of an entire society were symbolically transferred to one member of the group, either human or animal, and that member was killed or banished. This death or banishment suggested that the evils of the past had been expurgated, allowing for a better future for the group. The Jewish people in Old Testament times conducted the ritual by designating a goat as the recipient of all sins and evil, then turning the goat out into the desert; hence, in Western literature, the term “scapegoat” has been widely adopted to designate this sacrificial victim.
Tessie Hutchinson is the scapegoat in her town in the year in which “The Lottery” takes place; the implication in the story is that the lottery is an annual event. In this town, the scapegoat is used to banish the evils of the society so that the crops will flourish. Thus, two ancient rituals are combined: the notion of banishing evils via a sacrificial victim, and the idea of appeasing higher powers in some way to ensure fertility for the land. Fertility rituals, too, usually involved some kind of sacrifice.
The people of the town are caught up in the ritual to such an extent that they have given up any sense of logic. Mob psychology rules their actions. Though they appear to be sane, sensible individuals, when the time of the lottery comes, they abandon their rational nature and revert to the instincts of the herd. This psychological phenomenon is characteristic of humans throughout history. Although Jackson portrays it in its extreme form in this story, the idea that men and women in groups are willing to forgo personal responsibility and act with great cruelty toward others is evidenced in actions such as lynch mobs, racial confrontations, and similar incidents. The willingness of people to act irrationally as members of the herd displays aspects that, while unpleasant, are still integral parts of their nature that they must recognize if they are to keep them in check.
Character Symbolization In The Short Story “The Lottery”, By Shirley Jackson
The Lottery Character Symbolization
When one reads a story they often look for character development, traits, and symbolization to help them better understand the context. In the short story “The Lottery”, by Shirley Jackson, she helps the reader better understand the story by using vast character symbolization through the characters of Tessie Hutchison, Old Man Warner, Mr. Summers, and little Davy Hutchison which helps the reader feel more connected to the story. The winner of the lottery Tessie Hutchison holds a lot of meaning and symbolization in her character. Tessie states when being late for the lottery event that, “Wouldn’t have me leave m’dishes in the sink now” (Jackson 2). The lottery is a hugely important event for everyone in the community. Therefore, the importance of Tessie showing up late stating how her dishes were more important than arriving on time to this event shows not that she does not care, but that it does not hold as much importance to her as it does for the rest of the community. This widely sets her apart from the rest as a person who does not follow social norms. Tessie also states at the end of the story after being announced as the winner of the lottery that, “It isn’t fair, It isn’t right” (Jackson 4).
The fact that Tessie argues against being the winner of the Lottery and tries to express to her peers that this is a mistake, one could draw in conclusion that this shows her being against the event. One could also argue on the manner that she is just angry and upset for winning and that any other person may have acted the same way if chosen, but one can see from the very beginning that the lottery does not mean to her what it does for the others. This is just another fact that shows how she does not fit in with social norms. In the end, Tessie being stoned can be seen as a representation of what happens to one for being different and not wanting to conform with societies rules. Another character that Jackson uses as a large symbol is Old Man Warner. Warner states to a friend after hearing of villages nearby talk of giving up the lottery that, “Pack of crazy fools… ‘Lottery in June corn be heavy soon… There’s always been a Lottery” (Jackson 3).
Warner can be seen as a symbol for the complete blind compliance to the tradition. He believes above all that this is and always has been the right thing to do. Just as stated in the quote above he believes that giving up the lottery is setting the village up to fall back into primitive times, which one can see is actually quite ironic considering the tradition itself brings out the most savage of human traits. Warner is one of the worst villagers with his reluctant beliefs to never give up the tradition. He urges the villagers to begin the stoning at the end of the story, and criticizes anyone who does not take it seriously. On the opposite spectrum as to what Tessie symbolizes, comes from the character Mr. Summers. Jackson states in the beginning of the story that, “Mr. Summers began talking about a new box subject was allowed to fade off without anything being done” (Jackson 1).
Mr. Summers as stated in the beginning of the story puts on the event every year, coordinates it, and prepares everything including the black box. He can be seen in one’s eye as the leader of the whole event. The lottery is important for everyone in the community, but it is especially important to Summers. He wants to change the style of things to become more modern which can be seen as a way of conforming the tradition to fit into their current society better, so it will keep on going for the years to come. Jackson also states that, “Mr. Summers had been successfulin having slips of paper substituted for the chips of wood that had been used for generations” (Jackson 1). Little by little Summers pushes his changes and as this quote shows even one has been accepted by the community. With this information about Summers, and his ideology towards the lottery one can infer many things about him. Such as, if in the future of this village the ritual did not work rather than giving it up as some villages have done, Summers would begin to push his modernization of the tradition even more and keep it going. This makes him like Old Man Warner, one of the worst individuals in the village.
Lastly, it is good to consider the character of little Davy Hutchinson who is the son of the victim of the lottery Tessie Hutchinson. Jackson states before the stoning of Tessie began that, “Someone gave little Davy Hutchinson a few pebbles” (Jackson 4). Little Davy can be seen as another victim of the awful tradition. He is too young to understand his actions or understand what is going on, yet he is still handed pebbles to throw at his mother. His pebbles are not there for harming Tessie but to make him equally responsible for the consequences that come from stoning a person to death. Everyone in the town must have a part in the ritual no matter what age. Little Davys innocence is snatched away by this awful tradition and in the end, he can be seen as not only another victim but a symbol of just how twisted and evil this ritual is. A good story does not only need nice flowing material to keep the reader intrigued, it also needs good character development and in some cases symbolization. These traits are useful to help the reader connect and understand the context of the story. Shirley Jackson’s short story “The Lottery” uses all of these aspects especially character symbolization to help the reader better understand this awful tradition and just what happens when one does not conform to societal norms.
Multiple times lottery winners throughout the United States
The issue being addressed in this inductive argument is that if I had won the state lottery once, the probability of me winning again is very unlikely due to a state’s population. Premise (1) would be “I’ve already won a hundred dollars in the state lottery” and premise (2) would be “hardly anyone wins that much twice” because they are smaller claims that lead up to the conclusion.
The conclusion is “So I’m not likely to win that much again” because it is the primary claim a speaker, in this case, I, would make. “So” is also a conclusion indicator, which is a word or phrase that acts as a clue in identifying a conclusion. The claims in this argument are in a way more reasonable to an audience due to the probability of winning a state lottery again.
However, do to research, “Four people who won two or more lotteries. Steven Ontell (right) of New Jersey; Melvyn Wilson, a four-time winner in Virginia; Connie Cottingham, who won twice in Indiana; and Delma Kinney, who won $1 million twice in Georgia. None of them won nearly as much as Joan Ginther, who won $5.4 million, $2 million, $3 million and $10 million in Texas”.
The evidence clearly proves that people can and will continue to win the Lotto multiple times throughout the United States. Questions will continue to rise are people just that lucky, is there Lotto scams through the States and why is playing the Lottery so addictive to so many people. No matter what there will always be a difference in opinion when it comes to this topic between the so, called experts.
The question at the end of the day will continue to be argued even though there seems to be overwhelming proof that a person can win the Lotto multiple times in one’s life. There are some people in the world that could care less about the argument or debate but for the millions or even billions of people who plays the Lotto on a daily basis trying to become rich quick by either scratching or playing different numbers will continue to play. So, to the person who won a hundred dollars in the State Lottery, and hardly thinks anyone wins that much twice, and thinks he/she will not win that much again. Please read the stories of people who have broken all the odds win it comes to the Lotto.
The Connection Of “The Lottery” By Shirley Jackson With Modern Day World And Other Works Of Art
I think this story applies to life in the United States, 70 years after it was written, because of today’s controversial politics and republican platform. In the Lottery, Old man Warner – a survivor of many lotteries- bitterly rejects reform and complains that “It’s not the way it used to be… People ain’t the way they used to be.” This is one of those continual complaints you hear from Republicans and other varieties of social conservatives (in my opinion). For example, it’s even been portrayed and applied today in our president’s slogan: “Make America Great Again.” That is, make it the way that it used to be; but, some people never stop to think about or complain about all the senseless systematic violence that Trump perpetuated – such as oppressing women and immigrants. As well as in “The Lottery” the villagers mindlessly follow Mr. Summers and his tradition of the lottery with no questions or complaints.
“The Lottery” reminded me of Ray Bradbury’s “Fahrenheit 451” because both stories have a dystopian society, where people are controlled by an authoritative power/other individual. Although “The Lottery” and “Fahrenheit 451” have very different story lines, they are both based on tradition and how people are trapped in the ways of tradition. “In Fahrenheit 451,” the characters are trapped in the tradition and customs of burning books and not being able to read them- especially the fireman, such as the main character Guy Montag. While in “The Lottery,” everyone is stuck in the tradition of the lottery which results in one person getting killed every year. All the characters, in both stories, truly believe that it is always been done so it must continue. They do not stop to think about the custom and its cruelty or bother to say anything about it, so the people blindly just go with it.
A play I connected “The Lottery” to was Arthur Miller’s “The Crucible” because both stories emphasized the idea of whether the individual or community holds greater importance. In “The Lottery,” Bill Hutchinson was singled out for drawing a paper with a black mark. In “The Crucible,” Tituba is singled out and accused for engaging with the devil. This shows that in both stories the conflicts began with an innocent individual in the community being singled out and betrayed for selfish reasons. Moreover, no one stands up for the individuals being scapegoated because people believe that the community is more important. The resolution of both stories ends with someone innocent dying. In the lottery, innocent Tessie is stoned to death for the harvest. In the crucible, innocent John also dies by hanging because he refused to confess to witchcraft. Both deaths were unjust, cruel, and a tragedy. In addition, “The Lottery” and “The Crucible” have a similar theme of hypocrisy as shown throughout the text and plot of the stories.