Tradition in The Lottery by Shirley Jackson

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Tradition; it is the back bone of every culture and civilization. It is what keeps the beliefs, philosophies, and activities of societies alive, to be passed down from generation to generation. However not all traditions are practiced with pure intentions. Some activities become so routine, people don’t know a life outside of them. Societies become so accustomed to “tradition” that they will participate in pastimes without questioning the ethics or morals of the situation. Ultimately when tradition takes the place of a rationalizing mind the outcome can be incredibly dangerous. The role of tradition is an underlying theme in the short story The Lottery by Shirley Jackson, forcing readers to ask themselves “At what point do people set tradition aside and realize the thoughtlessness of their actions in their practices?”

The Lottery begins with the description of a clear, sunny summer day in a small village. The townspeople are beginning to gather in the town square for the annual “lottery”. Jackson starts the story off by describing what groups are assembling in the square and their actions. Young boys collecting pebbles with pockets full of stones and older women gossiping and laughing together nervously, foreshadowing the twisted ending to this chilling short story. The process needed to conduct the lottery is mentioned, revealing that lists had to be made “...- of heads of families, heads of households in each family, members of each household in each family.” (239) These lists are all the work of the official of the lottery, Mr. Summers. Once all the townspeople have joined at the square it is time to start the lottery. The head of each household, generally male, walks up to Mr. Summers to select a paper from th...

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...ruesome and strictly followed the tradition is. Davy Hutchinson doesn’t seem bothered by the fact that his mother is going to be stoned because he has been prepared for this moment.

The Lottery is an amazing work of fiction not only because of its extraordinary twist on the concept of tradition, but for its classic irony and impeccable use of symbolism. The Lottery questions whether or not tradition should be respected for what it is or evolve to suit new generations. When asked the purpose of writing The Lottery, Shirley Jackson responded that the story was "to shock the story's readers with a graphic demonstration of the pointless violence and general inhumanity in their own lives." (237) Jackson was a true visionary as a female author who created a thought provoking and alarming story to readers in a time when tradition was still heavily weighted in society.

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