Desensitization of Murder in The Lottery

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On the Desensitization of Murder in The Lottery

When someone is a part of or witnesses any one thing enough times, that person will become desensitized to it, whether it is gradually accepting abortion, homosexuality or anything else for that matter. People can even become accustomed to violent murder if it is ingrained into their lives enough. Take the Einsatzgruppen (Nazi Officers that were partly responsible for the death of millions) The Lithuanians showed them how to murder women and children, and they became accustomed to it (Cesarani 165). Shirley Jackson most certainly takes this "desensitization" into account when she writes "The Lottery." The characters in Shirley Jackson's "The Lottery" are so accustomed to their tradition of systematic, brutal murder, that they no longer feel any remorse for their murderous actions. The villagers carry out the lottery very nonchalantly, belittling human life itself.

The villagers think of the lottery as a chore, rather than a slaughter. The lottery to them is nothing more than another errand, a task that they need to fulfill once a year. They dread the lottery not because one of them will be killed, but because it consumes their valuable time and energy. They seem to forget the importance of the life they take away every year, instead complaining about how long and drawn-out the process or taking away said life is. The director of the lottery even wants it over quickly. ?Well now,? Mr. Summers said soberly, ?guess we better get started, get this over with, so?s we can go back to work?? (Jackson, 239) This statement shows that the people no longer care about the life that will soon be ended, but that they have work to do, and the lottery is in their way of finishing it. Moreover, ...

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...these people so much that they would turn a deaf ear to the final pleas for help of their own people.

In conclusion, we as people can be desensitized to anything, even something as awful as murder. Philadelphia Journalist John Smallwood put it best when he said: Our desensitization to murder has become frightening. (Smallwood, 1) Shirley Jackson repeatedly shows this desensitization people have with murder through the villagers in ?The Lottery.?


Works Cited

1.) David Cesarani. The Final Solution: Origins and Implementations. London: Routledge, 1992.

2.) ?On The Lottery.?, 24 April 2008.

3.) John Smallwood. Terribly Routine. Nov. 28, 2007. Philadelphia Daily News. Philadelphia, 2007.

Primary Source:

Shirley Jackson. The Lottery 1948, New York: The New Yorker

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