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Essay about Tradition in The Lottery, by Shirley Jackson

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Tradition in “The Lottery”

There are many things that people do every day without questioning why they do them. These are our habits and traditions, and though for the most part they are unimportant they can be a crucial part of our culture and our interactions with each other. Sometimes there are traditions that can cause harm or are morally unacceptable. What should be done in this case? Edmund Burke, a nineteenth century politician and author, argues that it is best to stick with tradition rather than causing dramatic changes in people’s behavior. This is a key component in his argument against the French Revolution in his essay “Reflections on the Revolution in France.” In this essay he argues that the revolution will only lead the chaos as the rebels fight against traditional government and social practices. It would be better for all if tradition was maintained. Cass Sunstein is an American legal scholar who writes on a variety of political and ethical issues. He argues against blindly following tradition in “Against Tradition” a chapter of his book “Designing Democracy: What Constitutions Do.” Much of his argument is centered on interpreting the US Constitution based on traditions, but many of the examples he gives can be easily applied to other situations concerning tradition and change. Sunstein uses examples of traditions such as slavery, or the poor treatment of women, as cases were the tradition was in the wrong, and change has been good for all involved. Within the short story “The Lottery” each would be able to find examples of behaviors and thought processes that match their own beliefs.

“The Lottery” is a short story written by Shirley Jackson. The story begins with the inhabitants of a small town gathering ...


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...gard to the lottery, both Burke and Sunstein would have supporters amongst the townspeople, and each would be able to find evidence to defend their position on tradition. The story is an intriguing look at several complicated issues, and there is no easy answer to many of the questions that it poses.



Works Cited
Burke, Edmund. "Reflections on the Revolution in France." Reflections on the Revolution in France. New Haven, CT: Yale UP, 2003. EBrary. Web. 20 Apr. 2011.
Jackson, Shirley. "The Lottery." The Norton Anthology of Short Fiction. New York: W.W. Norton, 2006. Print.
O'Hear, Anthony. "Tradition and Traditionalism." Concise Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Florence, KY: Routledge, 2000. EBrary. Web. 14 Apr. 2011.
Sunstein, Cass R. "Against Tradition." Designing Democracy: What Constituions Do. Cary, NC: Oxford UP, 2001. EBrary. Web. 15 Apr. 2011.


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