Old Traditions in “The Lottery” by Shirley Jackson Essay

July 16, 2021 by Essay Writer

Updated: Jul 20th, 2020

Upon reading the short story “The Lottery” by Shirley Jackson, one cannot help but realize that it is seemingly a critique of the age-old traditions, practices, and beliefs that we continue to follow without sufficient justification behind their continued use. Evidence of this can be seen in the way in which the townspeople seemingly forgot the exact origins of the lottery, what it was for, and why they had to do it in the first place. It even reached a point where the people associated the lottery as a necessity towards controlling uncontrollable natural events, as seen in the phrase: “Lottery in June, corn be heavy soon.” This was similar to the case of the ancient Aztec civilization wherein human sacrifices were utilized in order to bring rain and bountiful harvests. Yet, in either scenario, there is no natural correlation between having a human sacrifice and there being a bountiful harvest. It should also be noted that in the story it was indicated that the lottery was actually being stopped in other villages, with several people within the village commenting that stopping the lottery was a bad idea since it was a tradition that dated back for a long time and was part of the village’s cultural tradition.

This type of argument is quite similar to what is seen in the present wherein various religions such as Islam often espouse practices such as a woman wearing a headscarf or that women do not need to be educated further than what is appropriate. The inherent justification behind such practices is the supposed necessity of conforming to age-old beliefs as taught by the Qur’an. It should also be noted that the mid 1900s was a time of great civil unrest associated with the African American Civil Rights Movement. It is during this period of time that many practices within the U.S. were questioned, and, as such, I believe that writing this story was a way in which the author attempted to showcase the inherent problems with sticking to age-old practices that made little sense when placed within a modern-day era. For me, this is the primary reason why “The Lottery” has become a timeless short story classic due to the proliferation of instances where various societies still continue to stick to old practices and traditions that have no place within the modern world. The best way of surmising the entirety of the story is from this single quote, “”It’s not the way it used to be.” Old Man Warner said clearly. “People are not the way they used to be.” People have indeed changed from the way they were in the past, and it is based on this that the message of the story becomes clear: “it is necessary to move on from the past rather than repeat the same tragedies and mistakes over and over again.”




This essay on Old Traditions in “The Lottery” by Shirley Jackson was written and submitted by your fellow student. You are free to use it for research and reference purposes in order to write your own paper; however, you must cite it accordingly.

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