In "The Lottery" Shirley Jackson presents us with a shocking story guaranteed to outrage the reader. The author brings together the residents of a small village as they are gathered for an annual event referred to as the lottery. The families of the village are represented by their names on small pieces of paper, which are placed in a black box. The appointed townsperson oversees the drawing to determine who pulls the slip of paper that "wins" the drawing. The characters seem ordinary enough, and they appear to be pleasant mild people participating in an innocuous activity. There is a huge shock when the story turns violent. The peaceful village people are choosing which person in their community they are going to stone to death. "The Lottery" illustrates the danger and potential violence of a society that ignorantly follows a tradition without considering the harm they are causing.
There are many examples of society following violent traditions. A look at professional sports is a good example. In most sports it is a referees job to stop or restrain an athlete who tries to harm another athlete during the game. However, in the National Hockey League players frequently drop their gloves and engage in fistfights on the ice. The referees actually back away and allow the fighting to continue. I have often wondered why they would allow this kind of brutality. The answer is found in the kind of thinking represented in this story. In the story when someone remarks that some towns have given up their lottery's, an elderly old man called Old Man Warner, snorts and calls them "crazy fools and blames it on the young folks wanting to change everything" (81). He defends the tradition with one simple premise; "there ha...
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...radition steeped collegiates and the brawling athletes. All of these people exemplify what happens when a tradition is perpetuated through generations without regard to the consequences. I think all of these people are afraid to admit there is anything wrong with continuing these traditions because the subsequent conclusion would be that they were wrong all along. Every society has the responsibility to examine its traditions and rituals. We have to question the morality of our history before we allow it to set the precedent for the future. An intelligent society cannot allow loyalty to tradition to perpetuate ignorant and violent behavior.
Jackson, Shirley. "The Lottery." Literature and
the Writing Process. Elizabeth McMahan, Susan
X Day, and Robert Funk. 5th ed. Upper Saddle
River, NJ: Prentice, 1999. 74-79
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