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Ignornance of Tradition in The Lottery, by Shirley Jackson Essay

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Tradition, defined as "the handing down of information, beliefs, and customs by word of mouth or by example from one generation to another without written instruction." ("Tradition") Tradition is a core trait of humanity, from the time before recorded history to present, humanity has followed traditions or customs that have been passed down from generation to generation. More often than not communities all over the world blindly follow these practices with little regard to who started them or why they were enacted in the first place. The community, in the short story "The Lottery" by Shirley Jackson, is no different. The community members follow the tradition of the lottery without any consideration to its ramifications. Shirley Jackson's goal for writing "The Lottery" is to get the reader to question why certain things are done. She accomplishes this through her use of symbols, her description of the fear of change, and the portrayal of the dangers associated with blindly following tradition. The ignorance of tradition or lack of knowledge of it is brought to the reader's attention by Jackson's utilization of themes, depictions and symbols.
Shirley Jackson is a master at using symbols to convey underlying meanings in her writing. In her short story, she uses one symbol in particular to express the importance of new generations questioning old traditions. This symbol is the black box that the "winner's" name is drawn from in the lottery. The citizens of the community are attached to the black box as much as they are attached to the lottery itself, almost to a point that it is sacred to them. The black box has been in use for a very long time, it "had been put into use before Old Man Warner, the oldest

man in ...


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...wever, when blindly followed these traditions can become a disease

that plagues communities for generations. "The Lottery" by Shirley Jackson poses many questions about tradition to the reader. Jackson stresses the importance of new generations questioning and examining the practices of past generations. "The Lottery" is an extreme example of a new generation failing to do this. Through Jackson's use of symbols, description and the theme of danger, she urges readers to look into their own lives, assess their customs and embrace the benevolence of change.









Works Cited

Jackson, Shirley. "The Lottery." Making Literature Matter. John Schilb and John Clifford.
Boston: Bedford/St. Martin's, 2009. 837-844.

"Tradition." Merriam-Webster, Inc. 2012. merriam-webster.com. 27 Feb. 2012.
http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/tradition



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