“The Lottery” (1948) composed by author Shirley Jackson explores discordances in daily life. “The Lottery” perhaps Jackson’s most excellent compositions in this respect, examines humankind’s capacity for evil within a contemporary, proverbial, American setting. Aware that the reading’s characters, physical environment, and climactic action lack in significant individuating detail, I view “The Lottery” as a modern-day fable or parable. The reading obliquely addresses numerous themes, including human nature’s dark side, the dangers associated with ritualized behavior, and the potential for cruelty when an individual succumbs to mass will.
“The Lottery” (1948) concerns an atypical summer drawing conducted in a small unnamed American town. The townspeople assemble and wait for the ceremony to commence, acting in ways suggesting the ordinariness of their existence and the impending event’s ordinariness. Jackson initially describes the setting of her story explicitly by asserting that the morning of June twenty-seventh was sunny and bright, engulfed with the fresh warmth of a summer day. This places the reader in a place that seems somewhat welcoming. Summer has commenced, and everything is preparing to start fresh. I found this misleading because Jackson depicts the town as normal that functions normally as would any other town. However, this is not the case when the reading later reveals this is an end, not a new beginning when the lottery’s winner is stoned to death. The story’s tone quickly changes once the reader realizes the lottery’s point. There exists something very bizarre and secretive concerning this town. Mr. Warner relates to this as he is the town’s oldest citizen. Warner symbolizes the tradition in this unusual ritual the villagers partake in.
Mr. Warner holds a key role in Jackson’s “The Lottery” as he is among the story’s chief symbols. Mr. Warner is the oldest citizen in the unnamed town and has been present in seventy-seven lotteries. Mr. Warner represents the lottery’s tradition annually held in his town. The town’s younger generations inform Mr. Warner that other locations have ceased holding lotteries. Furthermore, he regards them as crazed fools for ceasing the lottery. Additionally, he believes by retiring the tradition; they are returning to life in the caves. Mr. Warner deems the lottery as the sole thing stabilizing the society. Being a superstitious man, he believes human sacrifice is the remaining logical answer for assuring the crops’ bountiful growth. In citation to the line “Lottery in June, Corn will be bountiful soon,” Mr. Warner welcomes the way things are since that is how they have always been. In Warner’s eyes, changing tradition seems disastrous. Another central symbol as depicted by the reading is the black box. Unlike Mr. Warner, the black box signifies the absence of tradition, reason being; the box itself was not passed down, rather only the rituals and ideas were passed down through generations. The box’s original pieces are few. The villagers utilize wood chips and not paper. The lottery’s significant details have vanished as years past and what remains is the lottery’s true intention. The villagers are blindly adhering to a ritual that lacks tradition and holding lotteries merely because there has always been one.
Arriving late, Tessie Hutchinson converses with friend Mrs. Delacroix regarding the household chores that nearly made her miss the lottery. Even though all villagers agree the annual lottery is important, none seems to know its origin or its intended purpose. As Mr. Summers reads the names alphabetically, each household’s head comes forth to pick a folded paper slip stored in an old wooden black box. Bill Hutchinson draws the paper holding the black mark and people instantly start speculating about which Hutchinson will “win” the draw. All members of Bill Hutchinson’s family then pull a slip from the box. Tessie picks the paper holding the black mark; she then vigorously protects the drawings’ unfairness. The townspeople disregard her protest, and as the story concludes, the townspeople begin pelting her with the gathered stones.
The theme as narrated in this reading is that blindly adhering to and following traditions can be very disastrous and dangerous. This is revealed to the reader through the outlandish ritual of murdering blameless individuals simply because tradition asserts so. The town is hugely immersed and submerged in this peculiar tradition that they see not the damage and destruction it is creating in their society. Mr. Warner I believe is a perfect illustration of this since he sees nothing erroneous with the tradition. He is submerged and committed to this tradition that he further believes the absence of it will return the villagers to a more primitive period if they cease from holding lotteries. I find this rather ironic since the tradition they adhere to has been practiced through generations and the human sacrifice for a bountiful harvest is a very primitive method of thinking. Mr. Warner questions not this tradition; furthermore, he would instantly murder another because the custom of the lottery is all the validation he requires. The black box is also related to this reason being; it is viewed to hold traditional values; however, in reality, this is untrue. The box is disintegrating due to years of use and is held together using pieces from the original black box. The villagers establish their loyalty with the box based on stories asserting that the box is constructed from remnants of the original box. This reveals how the villagers are blindly keeping and following traditions simply because of set norms.
“The Lottery” reflects ancient humankind’s need for a scapegoat, a figure upon which it can safeguard its most distasteful qualities and which can be ravaged in a cereminially absolving sacrifice. The townspeople in “The Lottery” inasmuch as they represent contemporary Western society, should possess religious, moral, and social prohibitions against annual lethal stoning. I believe the murder ritualizing made the murder palatable to otherwise decent individuals; the ritual, along with fulfilling its tradition, justifies and also masks the brutality. “The Lottery” is brutal and ironic. The term “Lottery” suggests the individuals will draw for a nice prize; however, the winner receives no valuable prize but is stoned to death, and unfortunately, death is not a prize. I believe Shirley Jackson wanted to convey to the reader how the violence occurs in general inhumanity lives by her short story.