The Use of Symbolism in The Lottery by Shirley Jackson

The Use of Symbolism in The Lottery by Shirley Jackson

Within the first few lines of Shirley Jackson's "The Lottery" we are faced with such adjectives as clear, sunny, fresh and warmth. She goes on to paint a picture of small children just out of school for the summer, as the townspeople gather for the annual Lottery. This leads us to believe that the rest of the story is as cheery as the summer day initially described. We as the readers are virtually unaware of the horrible senseless events that lie ahead. Through the use of symbolism Shirley Jackson reveals the underlying decay of ethics that results from an empty ritual followed by narrow-minded people.

Tessie Huchinson symbolizes the typical townsperson who lacks morals and conforms to the masses. Upon introduction she exudes a carefree attitude when she arrives late at the lottery, by joking with Mr. Summers and urging her husband to, "Get up there…" when their name is called to pick (Jackson 77). Consequently, the moment she finds out that her husband has the black dot Tessie yells, "It wasn't fair!" (Jackson 78). Naturally, the rest of the self-centered people urge her to "[b]e a good sport"(Jackson 78). The most disturbing event in the entire story is when Tessie tries to get her older daughters to be part of the final picking, and is dissapointed when she is told that they are only drawn with their husbands. The lottery proceeds and Tessie is stoned to death by her fellow neighbors. Shirley Jackson wants us to float along with her upbeat story and be completely appalled in the end at the total loss of human decency. Although Tessie was not said to be religious, her name might have been tied to a religious liberal named Anne Huchinson. "Anne was banished f...

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...ars, which has conditioned him to believe that they are doing the right thing.

As discussed in class, the theme to this story can be expressed within a quote, "Although the villagers had forgotten the ritual and lost the original black box, they still remembered to use stones"(Jackson 79). The tradition and its function had been forgotten yet these people still killed one of their friends every summer. Shirley Jackson symbolically paints us an unsettling portrait of the loss of human decency that results when seemingly civilized people ignorantly conform to the masses.


Works Cited

"Hutchinson, Anne." The New Encyclopedia Britannica. 1986.

Jackson, Shirley. "The Lottery." Literature and the Writing Process. Elizabeth

Mc Mahan, Susan X Day, and Robert Funk. 5th ed. Upper Saddle River,

NJ: Prentice, 1999. 74-79.
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