The Significance of Tradition in The Lottery, by Shirley Jackson

Powerful Essays
A clear sunny day immediately turns dark with a glimpse of a sinister surprise. Shirley Jackson’s “The Lottery” is a twisted tale that takes place midsummer in the early twentieth century. A small village of three hundred conducts a heinous ritual once a year which in consequence results in a loss of their community. Members of the village are reluctant to let go of the tradition of the lottery. Symbolism within “The Lottery” illustrates a transformation of the community values.

There are several glimpses of the future that are represented by symbols such as the black box. The black wooden box represents the darkness of death, and the condition of the box suggests a transition in thought of the villagers. The box becomes exposed when we see that “the black box brew shabbier each year; by now it was no longer completely black but splintered badly along one side to show the original wood color”(Jackson, 1). The color of the box is symbolic of death, since it is worn at funerals. Black also correlates to an evil presence, which is present throughout the story. The boxes form indicates that the villagers are beginning to evolve and develop. Helen Nebeker reveals that the age of this tradition may be much older than have thought with “its prehistoric origin is revealed in the mention of the original wood color” (102). The suggestion of a prehistoric origin displays the villager’s current mindset. They are tired and bored with this tradition. Some villagers are extremely irritated that this tradition must continue, but at the same time many people want the tradition to go on. The thought that the tradition is beginning to get old is implies when we see “the present box has been made from pieces of the original and is now blackened, fa...

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Ultimately the community is distraught and confused on whether or not they should continue with this outrageous tradition. The condition of the box, along with the stones and three legged stool are all representations of their tradition, but the villagers are ready to develop and evolve from this. Many villagers are ready to move on, but are afraid to be vocal about their opinions due to the possible repercussions from the rest of the community.

Works Cited

Hill, William J. The Three-personed God: The Trinity as a Mystery of Salvation. N.p.: Catholic
University of America, 1982. Print.
Jackson, Shirley. “The Lottery.” The Lottery and Other Stories. New York: Farrar, 1991. 291-302.
Nebeker, Helen E. American Literature. 1st ed. Vol. 46. N.p.: Duke UP, 1974. Print.
Yuhan, Zhu. "Studies in Literature and Language." Ironies in The Lottery 6 (2013): 35-39. Web.
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