The Use of Symbolism in The Lottery by Shirley Jackson Essay

The Use of Symbolism in The Lottery by Shirley Jackson Essay

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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 ...


...in. 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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