Shirley Jackson's The Lottery

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Why would a civilized and peaceful town would ever suggest the horrifying acts of violence can take place anywhere at anytime and the most ordinary people can commit them. Jackson's fiction is noted for exploring incongruities in everyday life, and “The Lottery”, perhaps her most exemplary work in this respect, examines humanity's capacity for evil within a contemporary, familiar, American setting. Noting that the story’s characters, physical environment, and even its climactic action lacks significant individuating detail, most critics view “The Lottery.” As a modern-day parable or fable, which obliquely addresses a variety of themes, including the dark side of human nature, the danger of ritualized behavior, and the potential for cruelty when the individual submits to the mass will. Shirley Jackson also addresses cruelty by the citizen’s refusal to stand up and oppose “The Lottery.” Violence and cruelty is a major theme in “The Lottery.”

The theme in “The Lottery” is violence and cruelty. Violence and cruelty is a major theme because there is a lot of violence and cruelty in the world. The Lottery has been read as addressing such issues as the public's fascination with salacious and scandalizing journalism, McCarthyism, and the complicity of the general public in the victimization of minority groups, epitomized by the Holocaust of World War II. The Holocaust was very cruel and violent cause other people didn’t like certain people so they just kill them and their children and still now we have violence and cruelty with wars and people that hate each other.

On the morning of June 27 of a recent year, the 300 villagers of an American village prepare for the annual lottery in a mood of excitement. The horrible tradition of the lottery is so old that some of its ritual has been forgotten and some has been changed. Its basic purpose is entirely unremembered, but residents are present to take part in it. The children in the village created a “great pile of stones” in one corner of the stoning square. The civic-minded Mr. Summers has been sworn in and then he hands a piece of paper to the head of each family. When it is discovered the Hutchinson family has drawn the marked slip, each member of the family Bill, Tessie, and the children is given another slip. Silence prevails as suspense hovers over the proceedings. After helplessly protesting the unfairness of the first drawing, Tessie finds that she holds the marked slip.

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