Tradition in Shirley Jackson's The Lottery Essay

Tradition in Shirley Jackson's The Lottery Essay

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Tradition in Shirley Jackson's The Lottery    


Shirley Jackson?s insights and observations about society are reflected in her shocking and disturbing short story The Lottery. Jackson reveals two general attitudes in this story: first is the shocking tendency for societies to select a scapegoat and second is the idea that communities are victims of social tradition and rituals.

Anyone with knowledge of current events must be aware of times when society has seized upon a scapegoat as means of resolution. Countless politicians, military leaders, corporate executives and school administrators frequently use this proven technique.  The people of the small village were very similar to the leaders of our society.  The village people believed that someone had to be sacrificed to insure a good crop. "Lottery in June, corn be heavy soon", said Old Man Warner. It is scary to realize the similarities in the reasoning of the villagers and the reasoning employed today.  The villagers are aware that the sacrifice is inhumane but none want to stand and voice their opinion, for fear of going against society?s standards and being outcast or being stoned. "It?s not the way it used to be," Old Man Warner said clearly. "People ain?t the way they used to be." The population fears that if they go against society they might be chosen as the lottery winner OR disrupt their corn season. "Some places have already quit lotteries," Mrs. Adams said. "Nothing but trouble in that," Old Man Warner said stoutly. "Pack of young fools."

By stoning Tessie, the villagers treat her as a scapegoat onto which they can project and repress their own temptations to rebel. The only person who shows their rebellious attitude is Tessie. She does not appear to ...


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...d us or that we cause, is pointless and has no purpose. Yet this violence and evil grows from a seed within our hearts and minds waiting to free itself in times of panic and turmoil. We need to learn to find solutions to our problems instead of putting the blame on others as means of a remedy. When there are no other corrupt and sinful human beings to kill, society will turn on itself. Even caring and normal human beings can throw stones. Forgotten traditions can also be extremely dangerous as Shirley Jackson points out in her short story. People hear what they want to hear and choose what rituals to keep for traditions. As a society, we are just like the villagers, forgetting the original purpose of our rituals but continuing to go through the motions.

Works Cited:

Jackson, Shirley ?The Lottery and Other Stories.? New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1982.

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