Analysis of Shirley Jackson's The Lottery

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“The Lottery” is a short story by Shirley Jackson, first published on June 26, 1948. The story was initially met with negative critical reception due to its violent nature and portrayal of the potentially dangerous nature of human society. It was even banned in some countries. However, “The Lottery” is now widely accepted as a classic American short story and is used in classrooms throughout the country. Jackson’s story takes a critical look at what can result when the customs and laws that govern society go unchallenged. She sets up the story by showing that the townspeople are quite normal. They attend the lottery while having everyday discussions about the mundane topics of life, such as taxes, food, and housework. Nevertheless, they then knowingly take part in a ritualistic lottery that results in the stoning to death of a community member. Witnessing the townspeople carrying out such an act without showing any remorse is a frightening concept, but their reason for doing so is deeply rooted in their adherence to the tradition of holding an annual lottery. Tradition is a ritual, belief or object passed down within a society, still maintained in the present, with origins in the past. As Michael Davidson explains, “Shirley Jackson's story offers a dark reminder of the dangers of following traditional practices uncritically”. The character named Mr. Warren best represents the unchallenging attitude that allows the practice to continue. He repeatedly condemns those members of other community that have abandoned the lottery as “young fools”. He believes that their lack of respect for this traditional practice will surely bring bad fortune to their lives. Mr. Warren reveals the ritual’s practical purpose when he states, "Lott... ... middle of paper ... ...er generations. And when a practice becomes outdated or no longer shows any beneficial results for it people, then that practice should be abandoned in favor of a new, better way of doing things. Works Cited Coulthard, A. R. "The Grim View of Human Nature." Bloom's Literary Reference Online. Facts On File News Services, 2001. Web. 09 Oct. 2011. http://www.fofweb.com/activelink2.asp?ItemID=WE54&SID=5&iPin= BMSSSJ29&SingleRecord=True. Griffin, Amy A. "Tradition and Violence." Bloom's Literary Reference Online. Facts On File News Services, 2001. Web. 09 Oct. 2011. . Michelson, David. “Tradition in ‘The Lottery’”. Bloom's Literary Reference Online. Facts On File, Inc. Web 20 Oct. 2011. .
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