Shirley Jackson’s Critique Of Tradition In The Lottery

June 23, 2022 by Essay Writer

Traditions help people feel connected to their past, or their way of life. Whether those traditions are good or bad, people are hesitant or fearful to change them because of the unknown. People may not understand why these traditions are set in place or why they do them, but they follow them blindly. In “The Lottery”, the community comes together on June 27th of each year, where they meet in the center of the town and each person takes part in what they call the “Lottery”. The author, Shirley Jackson, uses foreshadowing and symbolism to reveal that communities blindly follow traditions. In the beginning of the story, the author uses foreshadowing to illustrate how the lottery tradition is natural and unpleasant. Shirley Jackson describes how the children run around collecting stones and “eventually made a great pile of stones in one corner of the square and guarded it against the raids of the other boys”. Because the kids gather stones, the reader can infer that there has to be something the do with the pile of stones. So later on in the story the reader realizes why those stones were put in the place they were and why they were used. The author also says “They stood together, away from the pile of stones in the corner, and their jokes were quiet and they smiled rather than laughed”. This shows that they were frightened by the pile of rocks but didn’t want to show it. Throughout the story, the reader realizes why the stones were gathered and what the reason for the stones are. In the story it says, “Although the villagers had forgotten the ritual and lost the original black box, they still remembered to use stones”. This shows that even though they don’t use the exact materials used in the beginning they still remember to use the stones.

The stones were gathered in a pile moments before the lottery started because they would eventually be used to kill the “winner” of the lottery. Knowing that it is wrong, the villagers still continue to participate in the tradition because they are mindlessly following. The author uses symbolism to show that their tradition means a lot to them and they don’t like change. It is said “Mr. Summers spoke frequently to the collagers about making a new box, but no one liked to upset even as much tradition as was represented by the black box”, and this shows that they did not want to ruin their tradition as much as they already had. They don’t want to change their traditions, not even the slightest details about them. The story also says, “There was a story that the present box had been made with some pieces of the box that had preceded it, the one that had been constructed when the first people settled down to make a village”, and this reveals to the reader that the villagers still found a way to honor their tradition and use the remaining pieces from their black box. The black box symbolizes their faith and how much they believe in their tradition.

In conclusion, Shirley Jackson symbolizes the community’s faith and resilience that they have towards their tradition and how they blindly follow it. Shirley Jackson shows the feelings of the characters and how they change throughout the story and that even though they are scared of what’s to come, they still decide to honor their tradition. So why do the villagers in “The Lottery” keep doing the same horrifying thing each year without knowing why?


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