The Lottery, by Shirley Jackson Essay

The Lottery, by Shirley Jackson Essay

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Analyzing history and the current state of society and its members has always been a popular topic for authors and artists. Shirley Jackson's "The Lottery" is a comparison that can be applied to various phases of our current culture's development. Jackson uses her characters to compare old traditions and the new ideas. She accomplishes this with the development of characters such as Old Man Warner, Tessie Hutchinson, and the town children. Jackson uses these characters to reflect ideas that are often conflicted over the past, present and future. These conflicts can be seen in her use of the old man, modern mother, and the children. Morality, progress and change are all questioned, and still nothing is resolved. Ironically, the society's conscience is ignored in order to preserve tradition.

Jackson uses Old Man Warner to represent the past and its traditions. Old Man Warner is the oldest man in town. According to town tradition, one that has been in place since before his birth, the town must make a sacrifice in order to have a plentiful crop harvest. It is at this point that Jackson appears to be mocking the superstition that can often be found in communities made up of uneducated people. To demonstrate this point, Warner reminds the young men around him, "...Lottery in June, corn be heavy soon". (Jackson 4) Old Man Warner, given his age in comparison to the other characters and the date of the original publication of Warner's work was most likely born in the late 1800's. This was a period of religious fervor in which many of the puritanical ideas were being revived. The puritan thought was that life should be spent only in the service of God and all worldly things must be set aside. We see ...


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...side of the human nature. She is illustrating that despite our good sense and moral questioning of many things, we turn our backs in the name of preserving tradition and the past. Many atrocities have been committed in the name of God in our country's short history. The Salem Witch Trials, the KKK and slavery are perfect examples of this. For some reason that she did not offer an answer to, humans glorify the past, even romanticize it. If we actually stopped long enough to investigate our instinctual questioning and analytical nature we might have avoided many of history's greatest tragedies. Jackson was showing that we do not learn from the past and it is only repeated through our own actions...those that we are in complete control of.

Work Cited:

Jackson, Shirley. "The Lottery". 1948.
http://staff.bcc.edu/jalexand/Jackson--The_Lottery.htm

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