The Lottery by Shirley Jackson is a short story about a small town’s annual lottery drawing. Each year, the lottery is held, and instead of the winner being rewarded, members of the community stone them to death. The residents of the town have practiced this tradition for at least 70 years. Jackson’s use of symbols, names, and settings hide the true nature of this long-practiced tradition.
The setting of the story is in quiet small town in rural America. The way Jackson describes the town offers little foreshadowing to the dark tradition that the residents blindly follow. The author paints a picture of an idealistic community where “flowers were blossoming profusely and the grass was richly green.” (Jackson, 1). The town’s lottery ultimately culminates in a violent stoning of a “chosen” resident each year and Jackson suggests that this is a result of the residents blindly following tradition.
“The original paraphernalia for the lottery had been lost long ago, and the black box now resting on the stool had been put into use even before Old Man Warner, the oldest man in town, was born. Mr. Summers spoke frequently to the villagers about making a new box, but no one liked to upset even as much tradition as was represented by the black box.” (Jackson, 1).
Jackson is trying to prove that in small towns, tradition means everything and is a way to link families and generations. However, at the same time, the author is also trying to shed light that not all traditions are worth preserving. The acceptance of the ritual murder lottery has become engrained in the town fabric. The ordinary residents of the town have no reason to kill their own peers other than by tradition. No one in Jackson’s story stops to question their judgment on wh...
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...ual blindly and kill Tessie because that is what they are expected to do, just like those in real life often prosecute others at random.
In conclusion, Jackson’s story is one warning of the dangers of blindly following tradition and the randomness of prosecution. The author indirectly hints to the true nature of the lottery through the use of objects, settings, and symbolism. The residents of the village learn from a young age to essentially disregard reasoning when carrying out the Lottery in order to preserve tradition. Throughout the story, the villagers do not dare cross the line of questioning the ritual because that is all they know. Just like in real life, most do not question the significance of tradition until it is often too late. The lottery is an extreme example of what can happen if traditions are not examined critically by new generations.
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