Symbolism And Genre Conventions Of The Lottery By Shirley Jackson
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Set in 1948 and published in The New Yorker, “The Lottery” by Shirley Jackson describes a village ritual of sacrifice. Contrary to the positive feeling associated with the word “lottery,” the story strikes fear into the readers’ hearts as the winner is stoned to death. Shirley Jackson’s “The Lottery” uses symbolism and genre conventions of a classic dystopian story to show the different ways in which human cruelty can occur.
In “The Lottery,” Shirley Jackson uses the symbolism of a stone to show the cruelty of the human nature. Jackson introduces the story with a warm and pleasant setting suggesting that the lottery is just a typical day. The story, then, quickly changes direction when the children gather and make “a great pile of stones in one corner of the square and [guard] it against the raids of the other boys” (Jackson 1). The significance of the stones is revealed at the end of the story when the villagers use the same stones to kill Tessie Hutchinson. In “The Lottery,” a stone is a symbol of death. Jackson purposefully picks the stone as the weapon, instead of a knife or gun, to show that every villager can participate in the ritual since stones are always available. The villagers could have killed the winner through quicker methods, such as firing squad or electrocution, to reduce the duration of the pain. However, the winner of the lottery is stoned to death, and stoning is not only terrifying and agonizing, but also a slow way to die, which shows the extreme brutality of the villagers, including the children. Jackson further demonstrates the villagers’ cruelty just after the winner is picked when Mrs. Delacroix yells out “Be a good sport, Tessie” and “Hurry up” (Jackson 5, 7). On one level, the first part of Mrs. Dela...
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... Mr. Summer who makes the black spot, Jackson warns the audiences about the cruelty and corruption of authority figures when the citizens do not pay close attention.
Through the use of symbolism and genre conventions of dystopian fiction, Shirley Jackson effectively shows how human cruelty can exist in many forms. By displaying the deadly outcome of human cruelty toward each other, Jackson argues that people should treat each other ethically and morally. Through the villagers’ participations and Mr. Summer’s evil attempt to only protect himself, “The Lottery” shows that cruelty cannot only occur when human has power and wealth, but also happens throughout every social class in society. Even though cruelty is part of human nature, the story reminds the audiences to suppress their cruelty toward others under any circumstances since humans live in a civilized society.