The Lottery and Other Stories
Violence Rooted in Human Nature in the Lottery, We Real Cool, and Daddy
Violence is the primitive harsh desire that exists in all kinds of creatures. Violence is everywhere. It lives in human genes in various forms: crime, war, blind obedience. Even if humans define themselves as intelligent species, this is human nature and cannot change. In various perspectives, “The Lottery,” “We Real Cool,” and “Daddy” all expound how violence affects the lives of humans.
“The Lottery” went straight to the point in the form of collective participation in a so-called democracy, the social activities where everyone has equal opportunities conventional methods of democracy can still be collective atrocities that destroy individuals, and even kill people. It analyzed the human nature, irony of groups, and condemnation of the Holocaust; and of course violence covered by democracy and religion. The story has a dystopian background. At the beginning of the story, the tone is suspenseful, and the whole process of the lottery started in a peaceful time and a beautiful town which is a massive difference compared to the villagers’ tradition of violence. The details are quite significant. For example, at the end of the story, the author mentioned that ” Although the villagers had forgotten the ritual and lost the original black box, they still remember to use the stone” (Shirley Jackson, 425). The quotes showed that even though the activity had already lost its original meaning, the people who live in the village still let the violence keep going which means that the violence was rooted down in their souls, the killing will never stop.
We Real Cool
Likewise, “We Real Cool” elaborates on distinct violence. This poem is from seven pool players; it is about young people who lived a fleeting life like fireworks. At first, they were pleased with the fascinating lifestyle they outlined in the whole poem, but this brutal violence mood suddenly ended in the last line, when their death appeared to be the consequence of their actions. In the middle of the poem, another meaning of the word ‘strike’ is violence. Whether they are going to commit crimes now or in the future, it makes the seven pool players more dangerous. The next line is ‘We sing sin ‘(Gwendolyn Brooks, 730). Singing sin essentially means that these guys are celebrating that they sinned. They had no moral obligations and thought committing crimes were fun. It shows that they do what they want to do, the seven pool players may not be appropriately guided to correct their negative ideas, and it caused them to think that violence is exciting.
Eventually, the poem “Daddy” is the most complicated of the three literary works. It is a cruel and incomprehensible poem containing violent images. The author Sylvia Plath used the sharp tone of her voice to contain the complex emotion that she held to her father and the violence she received. For example, the third part of the poem the author used “I used to pray to recover you” (772). In addition to indicating that she prayed that her father could return safely, it also implies that she hopes her husband will stop being unfaithful to her. Plath has Electra Complex because her husband and father have a similar personality, she transferred the feelings for her father to her husband. Also, the fourteenth part of the poem ‘The black telephone is off at the root, The voices just can’t worm through.’ It showed that Plath’s husband tied her with a telephone line and choked her neck. Plath treated herself as a victim like a Jew in the Auschwitz concentration camp by using the nightmare scene of the Holocaust as a metaphor for the relationship between the daughter, and the German father, which did indeed reveal the depth and significance of history. In the course of this poem, the author’s goal was to recover, to reunite with her dead father, trying to kill the memory of her father and end his violence over her.
All three of the literary works provided the same message of violence rooted in human nature, but they have differences. “The Lottery” and “We real cool” provide pure violence: commit the crime. Conversely, “Daddy” is more relying on the emotional level, and seeing the author’s real-life through character’s words. Furthermore, characters in “The Lottery” and “We Real Cool” contained similar collective socially disoriented activities. They are using group violence in different ways. The central idea of “Daddy” was more inclined about confession and the sensation of violence, it expressed the fear and pain of the author and the contradictory feelings for her father, physical abuse was just one of the elements in the poem. These three stories all used different ways to provide the theme; conversely, every literature elaborates the audience that violence will never disappear. It is rooted in the ancient primitive period and keeps happening in modern times. The victim of abuse cannot forget the experience of fear, which is what is in the three articles.
Theme of the Loss of Innocence and Humanity in the Lottery and a Perfect Day for Bananafish
Firstly, the loss of innocence gives the authors’ personal perspectives on tradition. In “The Lottery”, Jackson uses the loss of innocence to criticize society’s blind following of old traditions. In the story, the village carries out their annual lottery tradition, where the unlucky winner is to be stoned. There is very little opposition to this tradition and one villager, Mr. Warner justifies it by saying “Lottery in June, corn be heavy soon…There’s always been a lottery”. Tessie Hutchinson is randomly selected by the lottery and the entire village prepares to stone her. Her son, Davy is handed pebbles to throw at his own mother. “The children had stones already. And someone gave little Davy Hutchinson few pebbles”. Just a few minutes earlier, he, along with the other children, were carelessly playing, and suddenly, he is given stones to throw at his mother. Although the story ends shortly after this takes place, presumably, this would have caused him to lose his innocence by realizing that he had contributed to the death of his own mother. Thus, this shows the loss of innocence caused by blindly following tradition.
Conversely, in “A Perfect Day for Bananafish”, Salinger uses the loss of innocence to criticize society’s tradition of war. In this story, Seymour has just returned from the war – presumably World War II – and likely has PTSD. After returning, others around him noticed that he is different than before. His wife’s mother says to his wife: “Well. In the first place, he said it was a perfect crime the Army released him for the hospital – my word of honor. He very definitely told your father there’s a chance – a very great change, he said that Seymour may completely lose control of himself. My word of honor”. Thus, the war has caused him to lose his innocence and see how cruel the world can be, thus criticizing the damages of war. Next, The loss of familial connections gives the authors’ personal perspectives on tradition.
In “A Perfect Day of for Bananafish”, Seymour returns home from the war to find his wife embroiled in the consumerism that has completely enveloped North American society. This culture of consumerism began after the conclusion of World War II, when there was an economic boom which sparked an interest in buying new products. Since this took place right after the war in 1948, many people like his wife feel they have to conform to society’s new ways. Her consumerist choices can be seen by her reading choices. Seymour brought his wife a poetry book back from Germany, but she refuses to read it since it is in German. Instead, she reads a woman’s magazine. While his wife is on the phone with her mother, she mentions how Seymour mockingly referred to her as “Miss Spiritual Tramp of 1948”, suggesting that she is materialistic, which shows that this was something that Seymore has noticed. In addition to this, his wife was busy doing little superficial things such as fixing her blouse, washing her comb and putting lacquer on her nails. These differences in worldviews and lifestyles lead to a strong disconnect between Seymour and his wife and according to Bogac, she cannot give the love that Seymour seeks.
Meanwhile, in “The Lottery”, Mrs. Hutchinson is a happy member of her community and family who is completely unconcerned about the lottery. However, once her name is drawn from the infamous black lottery box, the whole community and family blindly follows the tradition of stoning and turns on her. Even her own husband turns on her by making sure everyone can see the black dot on her slip. “Bill Hutchinson went over to his wife and forced the slip of paper out of her hand. It had a black spot on it, the black spot Mr. Summers had made the night before with the heavy pencil in the coal company office”. Shortly after, the villagers began the stoning, showing how quickly a community can turn on a person for the sake of tradition.
Finally, the loss of humanity is used to give the authors’ personal perspectives on tradition. In “The Lottery”, Tessie’s death is caused by the tradition of stoning the person with the black dot on their slip. This ritual is a long tradition for this particular town as well as other towns. Some of these other towns have decided to discontinue this tradition, however, in the village featured in the story, the villagers are quite resistant to change, especially Mr. Warner. When another villager mentions that other villages have ended their lottery tradition, Mr. Warner replies: “Nothing but trouble in that…Pack of young fools”. The insistence of villagers like Mr. Warner to continue this barbaric tradition, as well as the blind support of the people, led to the death of Mrs. Hutchinson. According to Suwardi, the villagers treat her as a scapegoat of a rebellion against the rules.
The loss of humanity is clearly seen in the community blindly following an outdated and inhumane tradition. In “A Perfect Day for Bananafish”, Seymour succumbs to his depression and disconnect from the world and commits suicide. His death appears quite sudden to the reader, which shows how serious his depression is. “He glanced at the girl lying asleep on one of the twin beds. Then he went over to one of the pieces of luggage, opened it, and from under a pile of shorts and undershirts he took out an Ortgies calibre 7.65 automatic. He released the magazine, looked at it, the reinserted it. He cocked the piece. Then he went over and sat down on the unoccupied twin bed, looked at the girl, aimed the pistol, and fired a bullet through his right temple”. Thus, the loss of society’s former traditions caused the loss of his life.
The Story Depicts a Fictional Town in Modern America Where a Ceremony Known as the Lottery is Held Annually
Traditions are the leading source of every culture and developments in societies. It is what keeps the beliefs of traditions and customs alive. So they can be passed on from one generation to another. However, not all traditions begin with good intentions. Some traditions become so repetitive that people don’t know a single thing outside of them. Societies become so comfortable with traditions and rituals that they will take parts in events without asking a question about the ethics or moralities of the situation. Traditions and rituals are a large part of almost everyone in this world, but most of the people can’t hold on to traditions and rituals forever. In “The Lottery,” it is quite the opposite. They give significance to pointless rituals and tradition just because it has been going on for many generations, and nobody in the town wishes to mess with the customs because they believe something bad might happen to the town. “The Lottery” supports the idea of old traditions and ceremonies that many people in today’s generation do not approve with.
My parents also grew up with traditions and rituals that were passed on for a long time. They regularly talk about their past traditions and rituals that they had to respect and obey. My family has strong beliefs in traditions and values that have been going on for ages, and they hope that the next generation would follow it too. For example, my parents had an arranged wedding where they only received one opportunity to meet and chat with one another before their marriage. Young girls were not permitted to talk to young men before marriage as the family assumed that it would insult them in front of the societies. Falling in love with somebody in different ethnicity can also be a big issue that can be lead to being abandoned by your own family members and relatives. The above examples authenticate that old tradition and the ceremonies that have been passed on for many generations. However, once my parents got married they raised their voice against the injustice, and they decided that they are not going to follow the old traditions anymore.
“The Lottery” respects old tradition and customs which are being passed on for a long time. They have strong confidence in their traditions and customs despite not knowing what the primary importance of the ceremony. “The Lottery” has a stone death ceremony that has continued for a long time. The black box plays an essential role in the tradition despite the truth that the black box is severely broken. The damaged black box demonstrates the town’s history and it also passes on the cultures and formalities of the town. Mr. Summers, the town’s lottery official, “spoke frequently to the villagers about making a new box, but no one liked to upset even as much as tradition as was represented by the black box”. This illustrates that everyone in the village is blind to the idea of even messing with their sacred box. Everyone has grown old with the traditions, and they still find it discomforting in the idea of change. “Every year, after the lottery, Mr. Summers began talking about a new box, but every year the subject was allowed to fade off without anything’s being done”. Shirley Jackson uses the word choice ‘allowed,’ to represent the people’s response by ignorance. Every year the recommendation is made, and every year the proposal is allowed to be silent for the sake of their old tradition and customs.
There is a feeling among individuals that should the box be changed or should the lottery and its purpose. “Some places have already quit lotteries,” Mrs. Adams said. “Nothing but trouble in that’ Old Man Warner said stoutly. “pack of young fools”. This outlines the beliefs of many individuals. Old Man Warner is the most important character; Old Man Warner is an elderly person who is very traditional about the protection of this tradition. He holds it remarkably close to his heart, despite the evidence that this tradition is slowly and steadily falling apart in towns around him.
Shirley Jackson is trying to aware the reader about meaningless traditions that are followed in real life. she wanted to attract attention to the detail that not all of the traditions are good. Following tradition without knowing the ethics or moralities of the situation can be dangerous. In “The Lottery” no one had a clear idea of the origin of their tradition. Individuals in “The Lottery” blindly follow the tradition just because it has been going on for a long time. It looks like the tradition in “The Lottery” is used as an alibi to get away with a random murder every year.
Shirley Jackson uses a lottery to pick a random person for an important reason. The villager’s decision to kill a random person is very much related with some real-world situations. In the story when everyone finds out that Tessie chose the marked paper, everyone turns against her. Tessie becomes invisible to all her friends and family members. Tessie’s death in the story is an excellent example of how societies can persecute an innocent person. In today’s societies, people get persecuted for many reasons like their sex, race, and religion. They get persecuted just because they are from the wrong part of the country. Similarly, in “The Lottery” the villagers kill Tessie just because they think that is what they are supposed to do. several individuals in real life do the same thing without questioning themselves.
In conclusion, traditions have continued for a long time. It varies on the person to change their mindset and attitude toward traditions for their promising future. My family’s rituals hold strong importance in my parent’s life, however, they decided that they have to change traditions and customs for the betterment of their children’s future. Shirley Jackson tries to aware the readers about all the injustice that happens in today’s society because of different sex, race, and religion.
“The Lottery” by Shirley Jackson
“The Lottery”, is a short story written by Shirley Jackson and was published in 1948, just three years after World War II. If you didn’t know anything about Shirley Jackson, one would assume that “The Lottery” was a happy fairy tale story about winning money or even a big prize. Unfortunately, “The Lottery” is not that kind of a story. It is a twisted story that delves into the darker nature of humans and how far people are willing to blindly following traditions.
The setting for the story is a small village of about three hundred people. The day was June 27th around 10 o’clock on a clear and sunny summer day. The beauty of this day was shatter to commit such an atrocity as the villagers were gathering around the town square to prepare for the annual “lottery”. On this day, one lucky villager gets to be the center of attention as stones are hurled at them by their family, friends, and neighbors with every intention of killing them. It is an annual tradition that have been around longer than the town’s Old Man Warner, who is 77 years old, have been alive being passed down by the very first settlers of the village.
The annual “lottery” was conducted by Mr. Joe Summers who runs the town’s other events such as the square dances, the teen club, and the Halloween program. Mr. Summers, who has a lot of free time and energy to devote, seems to take his job very seriously. Throughout the years, a lot of the ritual had been forgotten or discarded and even in some villages, the lotteries were completely given up. The black box, not the original one that was handed down by the first settlers, had been aging and originally used wood chips for the drawing. Due to the population growth of the village, it was no longer feasible to use the wood chips in the black box and in substitution, uses paper slips now. In the middle of one of the slips, there was a black dot that determined the fate of the unlucky individual.
Today, that unlucky individual was Tessie Hutchinson. Tessie Hutchinson has a family of seven; her husband Bill, a teenage daughter Nancy, two sons Bill Jr. and Little Dave, and two daughters Don and Eva, that had been married off. On this unfortunate day, maybe her fate had already been predetermined. She had been late to the square because she wanted to ensure that the dishes had been cleaned. When Mr. Bill Hutchinson drew the unlucky slip for the family, Tessie made an unsightly commotion about Mr. Summers not giving her husband enough time to draw and she felt it was unfair that he had been rushed. Tessie tried to push the draw onto her own married daughters but that was not how it works. Daughters who are married draw under their husband’s family names.
As her husband and children drew the slips for the second round, Tessie kept saying it was unfair and trying to get the villagers to side with her. Her family had accepted their fate if it was meant to be but Tessie just kept on fighting it all the way to the end where she was stoned to death. It was very alarming, that the villagers felt natural in the way they spoke and picked up the rocks. That it was natural to stone someone to death; even Old Man Warner encouraging everyone and someone had given Tessie’s son little Davy a few pebbles.
Shirley Jackson wrote a fantastic short story that can contribute to the discussions about cultural or historical events, attitudes or even rituals awareness that should be changed. Throughout our world history, there have been significant historical events that have happened where people have blindly followed and were able commit atrocious acts of violence against another human being. From the religious violence of the Crusades to the Holocaust during World War II and even more current, the acts of terrorism against people with different views or way of life.
How are individuals able to devalue the life of another human being as to take those lives with such ease by blindly following orders from “godly beings” or a person of authority? The self preservation of one or one’s family could make anyone commit such acts of violence. An act of self preservation is justifiable and in some states, it is even a law. What if the individual commits those acts following orders out of fear for self preservation? Like Shirley Jackson states “Am I walking towards something I should be running from?”
An example of that would be the conscription in the United States commonly known as the draft. The draft has been employed by the U.S. Federal government in five conflicts: the American Revolution, the American Civil War, World War I, World War II, and the Cold War to include both the Korean War and the Vietnam War. The United States of America now has an All Volunteer Armed Forces and no longer relies on conscription but still maintains the Selective Service registration as a back up. There other countries that has compulsory and volunteer military services as well.
With today’s generation, who has quick access to information from the internet through smart phones and computers, they take everything at face value without doing a little bit of research for themselves to ensure that the information is legit. As society, the younger generation tends to follow the crowd because it is the trend and it is cool. If society is to change and become better, we can’t just blindly charge forward because it is tradition or “we’ve always done it this way” mentality. We must determine what is right over wrong and chose the hard path over the easy path.
Literary Analysis Based on “The Lottery” by Shirley Jackson
Lottery is a game that we usually associate with some amusement parks, driving from roller coaster to another carousel or other occasional entertainment events with a joyous color. You can easily imagine the buzz of talks, the smell of good food or the excitement triggered by the vision of more attractions. In this canon there is a lottery and rewards associated with it. What can you win in Shirley Jackson’s Lottery?
Published just three years after the end of World War II, the story of terrible agreement, such as that which existed in Germany during the occupation. It is said that the basis of Jackson’s story was the deep-rooted fear of ongoing anti-Semitism. This story brings several important topics that should be discussed, including the dangers blindly following the tradition, mentality of the mafia and the reversal of our dynamics of our culture. It also shows as a hidden meaning of some objects, like the black box, stones or the big, black dot on a piece of paper.
There is always a kind of fear and distance towards small communities that have been limited for years. The vision of penetrating the structures of such small villages, isolated from the rest of the world of small towns, seems to be a risky undertaking, provoking complicated situations and uncontrolled events. Aliens among themselves. A guest for the next few generations before it is fully accepted. The eternal structures, systems and principles prevailing among such communities have something very primordial in them, something that allows you to think back to the times before all this really has really begun. In the end, civilization was built on the choice of man. On establishing the rules that a group of people should be guided by. On brotherhood, love, but also on the ability to get rid of who breaks from the structures, who does not fit into the only, good, established form.
It is easy to become an outcast in such groups. Unwanted and hated. It was enough to break away only a little, just a bit, for a moment to become unique and to take the form of a heretic, a weirdo, or a witch forever. And there is no place for people like this. The village has to get rid of them. Quick and easy. For example, using the annual lottery. The action takes place in a small-town reality. Everyone knows each other and knows everything about themselves. The most important thing, both the dominant and determining their behavior is tradition. An integral part of this tradition is the organization of lotteries. The lottery takes place every year on the same day, and people know the process so well that they only listen halfway to Mr. Summers’s instructions. Children are so excited that they collect stones. It seems that people have forgotten about other pumps and the circumstances that go on in this event, beyond the meaning of the box and stoning. As names are named, Mr. Adams notices Old Man Warner, the oldest man in the village, that other villages are abandoning the lottery tradition. Old Man Warner responds: “Listening to the young folks, nothing’s good enough for them.
Next thing you know, they’ll be wanting to go back to living in caves, nobody works anymore, live hat way for a while. 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. There’s always been a lottery” (“The Lottery”, S. Jackson).
All members of the community must participate in it. Do they have to? They MUST, because the tradition orders so. However, watching the attitude of these people on the reports of abandoning the organization of lotteries in other cities. “– They do say, – Mr. Adams said to Old Man Warner, who stood next to him – that over in the north village they’re talking of giving up lottery. – Old Man Warner snorted. – Pack of crazy fools. – He said” (“The Lottery” S. Jackson), recognizing those people as fools, and the fact itself as a kind of backwardness. You can come to the conclusion that the residents want to participate in the lottery and it really is. Everyone without exception places themselves in the right place at the agreed time. The preparations are slowly starting and the excitement of the gathered community is growing. Everyone is waiting for what will happen.
No one knows the origins of this tradition and cannot explain its essence or purpose – the lottery in the village has always been and is to be. The rules of drawing are very simple. From the black box (which after many years is not black at all), each of the inhabitants draws one voice. A black dot is drawn on one of the scraps of paper. Nothing more. Nobody wants to draw a black dot, because everyone, even the smallest child knows what the black dot ends and what it means for such a person. And that’s it. Or so much. There is growing excitement in the air – who will lose fate this time?
This story reverses the dynamics of the family on its head. Before the lottery, families seem quite normal, standing together, wives are focused on talking about their husbands. When Mrs. Hutchinson finds out that her husband Bill has picked up a bad piece of paper, he immediately yells to Mr. Summers that he did not give Bill enough time to think about it, seemingly defending her husband. But when Bill is asked if there are any other households, Tessie tries to offer her eldest daughter Eva and husband Eva, Don. When Tessie discovers a black dot on her paper, even her children become part of the crowd. They are happy when they see that they have drawn empty papers and do not seem to be afraid of their mother’s fate. Someone even hands them small stones to throw. The burghers are governed by the mentality of mobs, which encourages them to participate willingly in the tradition of barbarism. Teenage boys carefully choose the worst, smooth stones at the beginning of history and seem to enjoy the comradeship that the lottery brings. At the end, when Tessie is chosen as the “winner”, the women she talked to just to admire the stones begin to throw themselves at her. Mrs. Dunbar is upset that she cannot keep up with the crowd, old man Warner calls to the crowd, and even Tessie’s children stone their own mother.
The black box used every year in the lottery represents the tradition of the villagers. Although it is getting worse, and Mr. Summers discusses buying a new one every year, the villagers do not like to lose their tradition. Ironically, when it is not used, it sits like a dust collector in Mr. Graves’ barn or Mr. Martin’s grocery store. It is also a symbol of fear. Residents of the village make sure that they stay away from him. They know that there are sheets of paper in the box that will decide their fate. It makes him a symbol of power over life and death.
Children are trying to collect the most perfect murder weapon, stones. They choose the ones that are the worst and the lightest. They place them in piles and keep them as treasures. Stones give them power over life and death of someone who is going to “win” the lottery. Stones are a source of fear, as well as strength and camaraderie, both for the person who has been chosen and for those who want to be part of the mafia that develops from tradition. The transition from this very structured drawing of the lottery to the stone paper is also a terrifying change of the village from civilization to total brutality in important moments.
A black dot means approaching death. For Tessie, the dot means she has been chosen to die in this twisted holiday event. The dot leads to the end of “honesty”, which she found in all other lotteries with which she was previously involved. It also means that the closest to her heart turns away from her and joins the crowd to kill her.
“The Lottery” is a story of a community that is blind in tradition, following the traces of its ancestors, regardless of moral or civilizational changes. Rooted in a cruel past, they continue the predetermined draw, using the relics of death from the given years. It frightens the popularity of this draw, haste in successive, mechanically performed actions. Because everyone wants to get back to their tasks, home, have it behind them. A great meeting of the locals, where everyone laughs, and at the same time keeps track of even the smallest movement. Terror comes from waiting for the verdict and from his dispassionate execution. Family ties are no longer important. Friendships and love do not count. Everyone is equal. Everyone can momentarily become their biggest enemy. And the choice can fall on everyone. The choice is completely accidental, targeted in no one’s way. At least it seems so. At least they want to believe it. In the end it was supposed to be like this. It is every year. It has always been like this. Because the lottery has no beginning and there is no end. It continues, even outside the hot June day, outside the assembly square, buried in the subconsciousness of the inhabitants, their minds and hearts.
“The Lottery” by Shirley Jackson: a Book About Human’s Obedience and Conformity
Obeying authority figures can cause various problems throughout a society without the society even being aware of the problems that are present. Blind obedience, as noted by Stanley Milgram, has been a factor in helping lead to brutal events such as the Holocaust and suicide terrorism (Slater et al.). It becomes easy for a person to conform to the social norms of a society, especially when there is a person of higher power telling them to do something (Hays and Goldstein 22). Typically when everyone is conforming to what an authority figure wants, each individual becomes a bystander without realizing that they are (Thomas et al. 621). Through the traits exemplified by the townspeople in the short story “The Lottery” by Shirley Jackson, it is apparent that blind obedience and conformity lead to the formation of a bystander, which restricts individuals from getting the help that they need.
Stanley Milgram was a social psychologist from America, who performed obedience experiments at Yale University in the 1960s (Brannigan 623). The idea behind his experiments was to discover why people are able to perform brutal actions upon other human beings (Slater et al.). The focus was on whether authority figures can influence people to obey their commands to inflict pain upon another human being (Slater et al.). Powerful authority figures have the ability to cause conformity as shown by more recent experiments (Hays and Goldstein 22). With this knowledge, it is noticeable that people may listen to any command given to them by a person whom has more power and authority.
In the experiments performed by Milgram, there was a person who was considered the Teacher, who would be instructed by an authority figure, Mr. Williams, to give painful shocks to the other person in the experiment called the Learner (Slater et al.). Every time that the Learner would repeat back a word-memory incorrectly, the Teacher would shock them, gradually increasing the shock intensity every time in which they were incorrect (Slater et al.). The results of his experiments proved that 65% of average people would end up giving the maximum level of shock, which was 450 volts, to the Learner regardless of their cries for help because they would not want to disobey Mr. Williams (Brannigan 624). Most people would think that the cries of the Learner would convince the Teacher to stop shocking them, yet this was not the case. This is a fact that may be difficult for many people to fathom due to the fact that if they were stuck in that situation they do not believe that their reactions would be the same.
In many ways, the results from Milgram’s experiments exemplify actions performed by the townspeople in the short story “The Lottery.” Mrs. Dunbar was just an average townsperson in the story, yet she never seemed to be quite disturbed by the idea of the town having a tradition in which they would stone a person to death every year. She did not hesitate to go and grab a stone to throw upon Tessie after she had lost the lottery; in fact she grabbed a stone so large that she needed to use both hands in order to have the ability to pick it up (Jackson). Mrs. Dunbar seemed eager to go stone Tessie. She was telling her husband to hurry up and ended on going ahead without him and just allowing him to catch up later (Jackson). The actions displayed by Mrs. Dunbar are explained by the ideas presented in Milgram’s experiment since she is obeying the orders of an authority figures, Mr. Summers, to go stone Tessie. Two other people, Mrs. Delacroix and Mrs. Graves were discussing the fact that it feels as if the time between the lotteries seems rather short, and how “time sure does go fast” (Jackson). These two characters also seem as if they were not concerned or disturbed by what the lottery really is. Typically when a person talks about how time is flying by, it describes an exciting or happy event, but they used it to reference the lottery. This just proves that the people in “The Lottery” are just used to the idea of it since it has been a tradition for so many years. If it had not been for an authority figure pushing for the tradition to continue, then eventually the lottery would come to an end, but everyone in the town is blindly obedient to Mr. Summers.
A confirmation of Milgram’s theories occurred in 2004 at a McDonald’s in Mt. Washington, Kentucky (HeroicImaginationTV). An anonymous caller claimed to be a police officer and stated that one of the female employees had contraband, such as some type of drug, on her and he ordered the female manager to perform a strip-search (HeroicImaginationTV). The girl in which the caller was blaming, was a morally good person who was going to graduate in the top 10 of her high school class (HeroicImaginationTV). Regardless of the fact that she was a trustworthy girl, the caller was able to convince the manager to let her fiancé take over, so that she could get back to work and he ordered the fiancé to make the girl take off her apron that was covering her nude body, and demand her to do jumping jacks (HeroicImaginationTV). After that, he was ordered to force the girl to perform a sexual act and the fiancé obeyed the order (HeroicImaginationTV). When put in a situation dealing with what was thought to be an authority figure, the manager, the employee, and the fiancé were all willing to obey the commands no matter what they were. This displays how easy it can be for an authority figure to influence both the actions and the mindset of the person in which they are commanding. These individuals would most likely not have obeyed the orders if they were aware of the fact that it was not actually a police officer on the phone.
Just as in Milgram’s experiments, some of the Teachers were more hesitant to perform the higher shocks and would not get to the maximum shock of 450 volts, some of the townspeople were more hesitant also (Slater et al.). Mr. Dunbar is a wonderful example of this in that he only had pebbles as opposed to a large stone to throw (Jackson). Just because some people were more hesitant, does not mean that they did not participate though. They were forced to participate by an authority figure. The authority figure in “The Lottery” was Mr. Summers. He was the man who was in charge of the black box as well as making sure that everyone drew a piece of paper from it (Jackson). People of lower power are more likely to conform to the norms of their society (Hays and Goldstein 23). The other townspeople did not have as much authority and power as Mr. Summers because he had been alive the longest time out of them all, and therefore he had lived to experience the largest number of lotteries in his lifetime (Jackson). Due to the fact that Mr. Summers told everyone to draw a piece of paper from the black box every year, they eventually begin to believe that this event is normal. Authority figures are able to have a large influence on the people of a community.
Blind obedience is a main idea seen in Milgram’s findings. It is the idea that individuals will not question following an authority figures rules no matter what the personal consequence is (Miller 560). They solely do what they are told to do because of the fact that they were told to do it by someone who has power. In his experiments he realized that there were lines of authority which could easily persuade ordinary people to do cruel things (Slater et al.). It is likely that many of the people whom participate in the yearly lottery do not realize that in a way they are partaking in blind obedience, yet they were. Blind obedience can be dangerous in that people may begin to follow orders given to them by dictators or other cruel authority figures (Miller 560). If that is the situation, then many bad events, such as the Holocaust and suicide terrorist attacks may occur.
The Milgram Experiment is used to help explain the thought and reasoning for people to perform the inhumane events that take place these days, such as suicide terrorism (Slater et al.). Under certain circumstances, it becomes simpler for people to want to obey authority figures in order to achieve success (Atran 1536). This is relevant to the idea of suicide terrorism in that if the terrorists believe that the directions given for them to follow by their authority figure will help their country, then they will do it (Atran 1536). Since the tradition of the lottery had been happening for centuries, the people of the town must have believed that the lottery was a beneficial tradition for their town to have and they would continue the tradition for that reason and many others. It has been determined that extreme behaviors may be caused by different events that occur throughout history (Atran 1536). The only history of the town that the townspeople know of, is a history that consists of having the yearly lottery. Since this is the only thing that the people of the town have ever been exposed to, it does not come as a shock that they would never be opposed to participating.
Home life can factor into how the minds of terrorists work as well. In general, suicide terrorists have no signs of problematic characteristics such as being fatherless, friendless, or jobless (Atran 1537). The individuals in the lottery typically did not have any of these characteristics either. They only reason in which they participate is because of the fact that it is a social norm and that they would not fit in if they did not participate (Jackson). Even if a person was not present for the drawing, another family member would be required to draw for that individual, therefore skipping the drawing would not work to your advantage in any way. Mrs. Dunbar had to draw for her husband since he was not present and everyone in the town snitched that he was not there (Jackson).
The Holocaust is a real life example of an event in which a group of people obeyed an authority and performed harsh actions upon other humans. Nazi Germany believed that they were “racially superior” which is what led them to the conclusion that burning all of the Jewish people who they successfully placed into their concentration camps was acceptable (“Introduction to the Holocaust”). Adolf Hitler promised to bring a better life to the citizens of Germany which allowed for him to be nominated as chancellor, which was a very important authority figure (“Introduction to the Holocaust”). Being given such an immense amount of power, Hitler was able to convert innocent citizens into Nazis. During this time, the eradication of Jewish people went unquestioned by the people of Germany who joined the Nazis (Brannigan 623). In relation to this, the townspeople from “The Lottery” never thought to question why they were obeying an authority figure whom was making them to stone innocent humans to death. Regardless of the amount of time in which the lottery was occurring, not a single person had the courage to try and get it to end. It was a tradition for their town, as well as others, that had been around for many generations. The original box from the lottery had been changed out, and the wood chips were replaced for pieces of paper (Jackson). This did not affect the townspeople though. Even though the tradition had changed, everyone would still participate and not question why this event kept reoccurring.
During the time of the Holocaust, there were a large number of people who became Nazis. It was also not incredibly difficult to recruit citizens from the city of New Haven and change them into ruthless Nazis (Brannigan 623). It seemed to be this was with the townspeople of “The Lottery” as well. From a very young age, the people of the town were forced to participate in the lottery every year (Jackson). Starting at such a young age makes it easier to consider the concept acceptable since they had basically been doing it their whole lives without any problem. Tessie Hutchinson was the woman who had “won” the lottery in the year of the story, and even her son, Davy Hutchinson, was given a few pebbles to toss onto his own mother in order to kill her (Jackson). Since the children are so young when they are experiencing the lottery for the first time, they believe that it must be all right since the rest of the town was doing the same thing. “The gradual escalation of behavior can alter how individuals perceive the problematic behavior of others, reducing the severity of moral judgements and leading individuals to hold less accountable for their actions” (Miller 561). This quote helps prove that even though it is inhumane to host the lottery, when the children grow up they will never think to question it due to the fact that they saw it over a long span of time. It is more likely for groupthink to be present if all of the members in a group are from comparable backgrounds, as well as having no exposure to outside views (“What is Groupthink?”). The townspeople would never question whether or not the lottery should take place since they had never been exposed to a town that did not participate in the tradition of having a lottery. They truly believe that keeping their tradition alive is the right thing to do.
Irving Janis was a social psychologist who created the term groupthink in 1972 (“What is Groupthink?”). Group think is the idea that groups make immoral decisions because the pressure of their peers leads to the decline of their personal judgement (“What is Groupthink”). This is a concept that was clearly expressed in “The Lottery.” The townspeople were aware that their peers were also going to partake in the lottery and try to prevent it from happening so they just let the tradition go on. When the stoning was taking place, everyone else was throwing stones, so their personal judgement and reasoning was that it was perfectly acceptable for them to partake in the stoning as well. Irrational thinking is a result from the desire for unanimity (“What is Groupthink?”). Due to the fact that the lottery has always been agreed upon by all people in the town, their thought process is not quite as rational as a person that lived in a town which did not have the lottery. Many people would look at the basis of this story and immediately realize how inhumane the lottery actually is, but it seemed so casual to the townspeople.
The bystander effect played a role in shaping the characters in “The Lottery.” It is the idea that when people are in a large group, they will not offer help to victims of violence (Thomas et al. 621). As the number of people in a group increases, it becomes less likely for anyone to help and individual who is in need of help (Thomas et al. 621). No help is ever offered to the people who get stoned in “The Lottery.” Tessie claimed “I think that we ought to start over, I tell you it wasn’t fair. You didn’t give him time enough to choose. Everybody saw that” after her husband selected the piece of paper with the black dot on it (Jackson). The other townspeople did not stand up for her and say that the lottery was unfair most likely because it was not their family who was going to be affected by the drawing. No one in the town seems to care about the lottery until it is their family who is harmed. That is just human nature for the people of that town though. Another example of this is that Tessie kept saying that it wasn’t fair that her family was going to have to do the second drawing, and that they should redo the first drawing (Jackson). Prior to her family being selected, Tessie was grinning and laughing with other townspeople, but had a sudden mood change when she realized that it was going to affect her personally. She would have been flattered if they redrew and she would not have been upset for the family who chose the black dot then. No one wants to win the lottery, but as long as they are not the family chosen, they will conform to the ways of their town and continue to let it happen.
It has been seen by researchers that most people want somebody to step in and help, but they just do not want to be the ones to do it (Thomas et al. 621). For example, Davy Hutchinson was forced to throw pebbles at his own mother, and instead of refusing to do so, he was most likely hoping that someone else would step up and stop the stoning. It has also been discovered that the amount of knowledge that each individual has about each other bystander can also influence their actions (Thomas et al. 623). Each person in the town knows that no one else is going to question the authority of Mr. Summers, therefore it becomes less likely for any individual in particular to want to try and stop the lottery regardless of whether they realize how wrong it is or not.
Common knowledge is another aspect of the bystander effect. This means that everyone is aware of the help that is needed by a particular individual (Thomas et al. 621). Public spaces in which everyone is watching the same event occur are prime examples of common knowledge. The entire town is present for the stoning of the lottery winner, therefore they all have common knowledge of it. Simply because everyone knows what is happening to the person who wins, does not make them any more likely to step in to help. The townspeople will continue to conform to the norms of the town in order to keep peace and order. They try to ignore the fact of the matter and stay happy throughout the entire tradition, but if they were the person being harmed, they would most likely wish for someone to help them.
The bystander effect is not only relevant to “The Lottery,” but it is also relevant to real life situations that could happen every day. For instance, in a 1964 violent attack against a woman named Kitty Genovese, the police were not informed about the attack (Lurigio 783). Kitty was an innocent woman who lived in a relatively safe neighborhood (783). Winston Mosely was an upcoming rapist and killer whom violently stabbed and also sexually assaulted Kitty in the open streets (783). Kitty’s neighbors were able to hear her cries for help, yet decided not to call the police or take any sort of action to help provide safety to Kitty (784). This is similar to the stoning in “The Lottery” in that all of the townspeople were aware of the pain in which Tessie was going to experience, and they also knew that the stoning would lead to her death. No one in the town seemed to be too disturbed by this fact considering they did not take any acts to help her or get the stoning to be stopped. News articles preached the fact that Kitty’s neighbors were heartless for being able to shut their windows and ignore the conflict that was happening just feet away from them (785). In a way, the townspeople in “The Lottery” also turned their backs on a woman in need. In fact, what they did was worse considering they didn’t only ignore Tessie’s cries, but they also participated in the brutal stoning of her. The townspeople, they did not see themselves or each other as heartless. The lottery was just a tradition that was acceptable to them, and they never thought twice about the consequences of their actions. In the safe part of the city, Kitty laid there to die in the open streets where all could see, and not a soul dared to help (Lurigio 786). As for Tessie in “The Lottery,” she laid in the middle of her hometown to die with nothing else to do about it (Jackson). As opposed to getting help from anyone, both Kitty and Tessie had similar situations in which people acted as bystanders and just watched as they lay there suffering.
There have been many events that have taken place in both real life and in “The Lottery” where a person is denied the help that they need. Bystanders are created by the ideas of blind obedience and conformity; even if they should help the person, the bystanders believe that it should be someone else’s job to get involved in the situation. In today’s society nobody wants to stand up for others. “The Lottery” by Shirley Jackson is a prime example of what human nature can look like if blind obedience and conformity are present.
Symbolism as a Mean for Deeper Understanding of the Novel the Lottery
“The Lottery” Symbolism Analysis
“The Lottery”, written by Shirley Jackson, is filled with symbols. The symbols in the story make the readers aware of impending events and to communicate deeper messages. The Lottery is a story about a small town using an annual ritual of human sacrifice. The townspeople do not remember why the lottery ritual exists but out of tradition, it is accepted as common practice. Jackson uses symbolism to communicate deeper messages about the town and its people through her use of the character names, lottery process, and stones.
Jackson uses symbolic character names to subtly provide clues that this story is not as it appears and to enhance the storyline. The “names of the characters are laden with significance” (Yarmove 243), as demonstrated by the following examples. Joe Summers, the officiator of the lottery, is symbolic for the season of the lottery. The lottery is conducted in the summer “on June 27th, “the day is clear and sunny and the flowers were blossoming profusely” (Jackson 236). Mr. Summers’ name represents the lottery because he is the leader and his name reminds the villagers the time of year the lottery occurs. Harry Graves’ name implies death. Mr. Graves’ name signals a sinister purpose because his name “sounds a somber, forewarning note of what will happen to Tessie” (Yarmove 243). Mr. Graves’ name warns that someone will die. The first four letters of Old Man Warner’s last name, spells warn. Mr. Warner, the “oldest man in town” (Jackson 237), is in the best positon to warn the villagers “about the primordial function of the lottery, which is to ensure fertility” (Yarmove 243). Warner represents the traditional history of the lottery and is the primary supporter that the lottery should remain. The name Delacroix has a composite symbolic meaning. In Spanish, de means from and la means the; and, in French, croix means cross. Together, the symbolic meaning for Delacroix is from the cross, which suggests a crucifixion. “Mrs. Delacroix’s name alludes to the pseudo-crucifixion of Tessie” (Yarmove 243) as a human sacrifice. The cross symbolic meaning infers there will be some sort of human sacrifice like the sacrifice that Jesus made on the cross. The use of names foreshadows the upcoming events and reinforce that there are other meanings for the readers to consider.
The symbols used in the lottery process provide the most valuable clues. “Men control the lottery” (Oehlschlaeger (259) because they perform the important roles in the lottery process. To further demonstrate superiority of the men, the little boys collect the stones while the little girls watch. When assistance is needed, Mr. Summers “inquires whether any of the ‘fellows’ might want to give a hand” (Oehlschlaeger (259), excluding the women. The male dominance is portrayed throughout the story. Because Clyde Dunbar has a broken leg and did not attend the lottery, Mr. Summers wants to know who is representing the Dunbar family in the selection process. He asked Janey Dunbar, his wife; and, when she replies that she would select, Mr. Summers inquires, “don’t you have a grown boy to do this for you” (Jackson 239) even though he knew that she did not. This inquiry is stronger evidence that men are preferred to women even during the black box drawing. The black box is the most ominous symbol in the lottery process as it creates a dismal image of doom. The black box, symbolically, represents fear, evil and death. The most important clue that the black box represents fear, evil and death is when the Hutchinson’s family selects the paper with the black dot. Tessie Hutchinson strongly protests the selection made by her husband, “you didn’t give him time enough to take any paper he wanted” (Jackson 241). Her protests included insisting that her daughter and son-in-law are included in her family drawing to decrease her chance of selecting the paper with the black dot. The paper containing the black dot within the black box means death to the holder. Nervousness among the villagers is exhibited throughout the story and even more during the selection process. The townspeople are “subdued, even nervous” (Yarmove 244) as they wait to learn who is the unlucky lottery winner. The “villagers kept their distance” (Jackson 237), from the black box, which indicates that the black box is the beginning of the end for someone. The black box with the black dotted paper are critical to understanding the message of doom. The symbols surrounding the lottery process offer the strongest messages that the lottery is unconventional.
The symbolic stones are evasive because there is not any initial indication that they will be used for violence. The boys stocking piles of stones and stuffing their pockets with the stones indicate play. The statement, “Bobby Martin had already stuffed his pocket full of stones, and the other boys soon followed his example” (Jackson 236), does not suggest any evil acts. The vision of boys collecting stones suggests boyish summer activities. Using the stones for violent purposes becomes clear as the story unfolds. In review of this statement, “they stood together, away from the pile of stones” (Jackson 236) suggest that villagers’ avoidance indicate their fear of what the stones represent. The emphasis on the type of stones provides a clue as to their intent because the boys selected the “smoothest and roundest stones” (Jackson 236). The emphasis placed on the types of stones suggest that these stones make it easier to hit the intended target. Even though many of the traditions associated with the lottery are forgotten, “they still remembered to use stones” (Jackson 242), speak to the villagers’ violent nature. They eliminate and/or forget much of the ritual activities but the villagers remember the stones because this is critical to their violent nature. Mrs. Delacroix who cheerfully embraces Mrs. Hutchinson and appears to be a friend, “selected a stone so large that she had to pick it up with both hands” (Jackson 242) is an extreme example of a person’s propensity for violence and lack of compassion. The townspeople became alive and all are fully engaged in the stoning of Tessie to the point that nothing else matters. The violence is enjoyed by all from the oldest Old Man Warner to the youngest villagers, as the “children had stones” (Jackson 242). So, without any consideration to emotional impact, Old Man Warner supports the lottery because he states that “the individual must be sacrificed to maintain community structure” (Oehlschlaeger (260). The villagers believe that stoning is necessary because they enjoy violence and it provides a method of guilt free murder.
“The Lottery” effectively uses symbolism to capture the central theme of the story. These symbols engage the readers so that the obvious objects and characters are not taken at face value. The readers are encouraged to look for deeper meanings to understand the story. Jackson’s symbolic use of the character names, the lottery process, and the stones gently guides the readers to expect the unexpected.
A Theme of Mindless Brutality in the Lottery Novel
Historical Violence of Humans in “The Lottery”
“The Lottery” by Shirley Jackson was published on June 26, 1948. This short story received a lot of criticism during this time, due to Jackson’s depiction of a whole town stoning one of their citizens. Many complained through letters that the story was completely disturbing and they had no idea what the purpose was. Even though readers at the time were shocked at the barbarity in the story, it is analogous with the violence of the story’s historical and political context. Around 1948, when Jackson wrote this story, World War II had just ended and racial segregation was prevalent. Both of these major events are infamous for the brutality that took place and the countless people that were killed. Through the violence of this era, “The Lottery” can be analyzed to reveal the theme that all humans are capable of mindless brutality.
To begin with, the theme of humanity’s capacity for violence can be conveyed through the racism of the time period. Racial segregation was a widespread problem in America, mainly affecting the Southern states. Jackson wrote this story when the Jim Crow law was enforced. The Jim Crow law made the segregation of blacks and whites legal, and it was primarily imposed using vicious measures. The process of lynching was commonly executed, where one or more African-Americans were publicly murdered by crowds of white people. The stoning in “The Lottery” can be seen as a form of lynching. All of the citizens in this unnamed town gather together, and one person is randomly chosen to be stoned to death. Before the lottery takes place, the citizens act amiably towards each other, conversing about pleasant topics. Once a person is chosen however, the demeanor of the crowd changes, and they quickly turn on Tessie Hutchinson, who happens to be the person to “win” the lottery. This sudden change can relate to those who participated in lynching African-Americans. The mobs involved consisted of ordinary citizens, men and women of many ages, who tended to make events like lynching a sort of festivity. This helps express Jackson’s main idea that anyone can commit acts of terrorism.
Additionally, most lynchings occurred because of unreasonable justifications. Usually the African-Americans injured and killed were falsely accused of crimes or convicted for accidental happenings, such as touching a white person while walking through a crowd. Similarly, in “The Lottery,” there is no reason behind why a citizen is picked to be stoned every June 27th. The ceremony is only a tradition that has either lost its meaning or never had one to begin with. Here Jackson is revealing how a majority of the violence that humans commit is purposeless. Humans often believe that the torture they commit is for the greater good. In the case of racial segregation, African-Americans were demonized and treated as though they were less than human with no reason other than their skin color.
Perhaps an equally horrific event, compared to racial segregation, that occurred within the historical context of “The Lottery” is World War II. Lasting from 1931 until 1945, the brutal effects of this war stretched across the world, sparing no nation. This universal aspect of WWII can relate to the purpose Jackson conveys that savagery may happen anywhere. In “The Lottery,” Jackson does not specify where the town is located. This fact and the idea that the lottery occurs in every town helps support how violence can occur everywhere and by everyone.
Within the midst of World War II, one of the most tragic events in history occurred, which included the barbaric slaughter of approximately six million Jews. The Holocaust is another example of how humans are capable of senseless violence, as Jackson portrays in “The Lottery.” Those that participated in the killings of the Holocaust were Nazis under Hitler’s command. Despite this, they were still men who went home each evening to eat dinner with their families. Similarly, in the story, everyone will “go back to work” (249) after they participate in stoning Tessie Hutchinson. Here Jackson implies that all the citizens will return to acting as if everything is normal after the lottery like they do every year. This nonchalance at the pain they inflict is representative of Jackson’s view that humans are generally abusive beings.
In the Holocaust, Hitler targeted innocent people of almost every ethnic background and diversity— Jews, prisoners of war, Serbians, homosexuals, Catholics— excluding those of the Aryan race, whom Hitler considered superior. This wide array of victims can be partially related to how in the short story, anyone has a chance of being chosen in the lottery. Both in the story as with real life, no one is excluded from being harmed through acts of maiming; it does not matter whether they are guilty of a crime or purely innocent citizens. Overall, the Nazis killed about 1.2 million people during the Holocaust. Not only can the malicious behavior of humans been seen through how many died in this travesty, but also through the conditions of the concentration camps. These torture camps were distinguished by the intense labor, filthy facilities, limited food, and cruel punishments prisoners had to endure. There were at least 40,000 different concentration camps, the most famous being Auschwitz in Poland, where approximately 1.6 million Jews were murdered.
Another way the Holocaust can be used to analyze “The Lottery” is how the children in both situations are affected by the ferocity surrounding them. The children of Nazis were taught both how Jews were inferior to them and how inflicting violence was normal. These teachings made barbarity seem almost trivial to German children, at least during that time. In some schools, real weapons were often used to train students for war. Similarly, Jackson describes the children in the short story as gathering in “boisterous play” (247) to accumulate stones in preparation for the lottery. By portraying the preparation of the lottery as a game for children, Jackson is revealing to readers just how desensitized humanity has become to mutilation, and what effects this can have on the youth within society.
Next, there are political moves enacted by the United States during this time period that can contribute to analyzing the violence within “The Lottery.” This includes the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. In both of these events, people were tortured and killed for reasons they had no control over. A majority of those killed due to the atomic bombs were Japanese and Korean civilians, who had no influence over the attack of Pearl Harbor or Japanese military resistance. In a similar sense, the characters have no control over the lottery. They have no control over who is to be chosen, since it is a random draw. Also they have no control over the happening of the event itself, since it is a tradition that has occurred for generations.
Furthermore, the dropping of the atomic bombs helps to reveal how Jackson believes the suffering humanity engenders is senseless. While the United States felt as if dropping the bombs would have a purpose—to end World War II—they caused about 200,000 innocent deaths and launched the Cold War. There is a form of irony in the fact that the United States used violence in order to stop war, and in this violence causing another war. Hiroshima was targeted because the city was a major military base, and the second bomb was originally meant for Kokura, another military city. However, the sky was too cloudy to go through with that location, so Nagasaki was targeted. Even though US military knew Nagasaki housed a greater number of non-military citizens than Kokura, they still went through with the bombing. This persistence of committing murder with the knowledge of more innocent people dying further supports the theme of how cruel humanity is as a whole.
In continuation, another political matter of the time that influenced the barbarity Jackson portrays in “The Lottery” is the imprisonment of Japanese-Americans in America. In 1942, President Roosevelt decreed that all Japanese-Americans were to be placed in internment camps. This action had little to no justification, because it was already determined that the Japanese-Americans posed no harm to the United States. Those forced in internment camps were not the people to attack Pearl Harbor, they were only American citizens of Japanese descent. Even after World War II was finished, and the Japanese-Americans were released from the internment camps, they were not reimbursed for the terrible conditions they endured.
Even though there were multiple events that contributed to the plethora of violence occurring during the time Jackson wrote “The Lottery,” the theme of how all humans are capable of purposeless torture does not only apply to this time period. Savage acts upon innocent people can be traced throughout history, in every war, conflict, and political context. Mainly, the purpose Jackson means to convey through the violence in her story, is that no matter the location or time period, there will always be people committing terror upon others. The story suggests that this is the way of human nature, but it does not condone this behavior.
In conclusion, the multitude of violence that occurred in the historical and political context of the short story is enough for anyone to question how humane the human race truly is. Through “The Lottery,” Jackson demonstrates how capable humans are of destruction without reason, reflecting on events during the 1940s. From World War II in Europe to racial injustice in America, murder could be spotted around the world. Compared to the savagery of this time period, it is surprising how Jackson received letters expressing disgust about the violence of “The Lottery.”
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.