The Use of Symbolism in The Lottery by Shirley Jackson

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The Use of Symbolism in The Lottery by Shirley Jackson In "The Lottery," Shirley Jackson uses symbolism to make us aware of the pointless nature of humanity regarding tradition and violence. The story starts off on a beautiful summer day in a small town. The author describes the day as very euphoric but strikes a contrast between the atmosphere of the town and the atmosphere of the people gathered in the square. The atmosphere is subdued, where the children are "gathered around quietly." The black box is the central theme or idea in the story. It symbolizes at first some type of mystery, but as we read the ending we realize that it is synonymous with doom. Someone's fate lies in an inanimate object, the black box. We do not always enjoy change, even if it might prove beneficial to us. The box is symbolic of our loathing of change; it is old and splintered showing that we cling to what is familiar rather than change and it also symbolizes the traditions of the community. No one in the little town questions the origin of the black box, but accept it as an intrical part of their lives. There is always discussion of people getting a new box, but no one ever really goes through with it. "Everuy year, after the lottery, Mr.Summers began talking again about a new box, but every year the subject was allowed to fade off without anything's being done". The lottery itself is symbolic of the paradox of the human psyche between compassion on one hand and the thirst for violence and cruelty on the other. An example of this is when the children are enjoying a break from school, playing and being children, and suddenly they are being joined by "rational" adults in stoning a mother to death. It appears that tradition has blinded these people in an irrational way, making them unable to think of a reason why this possibly should not be happening. When forced with the possibility of death, human nature in all its complexity, comes down to one instinctive urge, that of survival. When Tessie was in no danger she was gossiping with the other ladies and even encouraged her husband to go and pick a piece of paper. When Tessie wins the lottery; she pleads for another chance and screams for mercy. She demands that her daughters take their chances as well, which is indicative of regression toward our ... ... middle of paper ... They chose this method of sacrifice in order to yield themselves from the responsibility and burden of murder. Even though the towns lottery has lost all traditional value the sacrificing has held steadfast. As it says in The Lottery ? although the villagers had forgotten the ritual and lost the original black box, they still remember to use the rocks.? This quote means that even though their tradition has gone off course they will always hold to their beliefs about sacrifice. To summarize they held true to their beliefs because of apprehension. So tradition has subconsciously made the community unaware of their horrible actions. The citizens of the village are not afraid of change. They are afraid of what change will bring. The present community has never known a year without the lottery or depleted crops. They fear if they if they disband from the traditional sacrifice their crops will fail. Also their warm safe homes will fade away and the dampened caves that have become so fictional to them will appear to be realistic problems. Works Cited: Jackson, Shirley. "The Lottery." The Lottery. New York: Popular Library, 1949.
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