The story entitled “The Lottery,” written by Shirley Jackson is an intriguing and shocking parable. “The Lottery” is set in a small village on a clear summer day. Written in objective third person point of view, “The Lottery” keeps the reader in suspense as the story progresses. This story shows the cruelty of people and their justification through tradition. The story begins morning of June 27. From the very beginning, irony occurs in the story. The author describes the day as “clear and sunny, with the fresh warmth of a full-summer day; the flowers were blossoming profusely and the grass was richly green. 255)
To describe such a beautiful day when the ending is so ill fated is very ironic. The villagers, all three hundred of them, gather in the square. There is a feeling of excitement and relative normalcy as the people talk of their everyday happenings. The lottery is conducted by Mr. Summers, as he is the one that directs the “civic activities” of the town. The night before the lottery, all of the families have their names placed in a black box. The day of the lottery, Mr. Summers has each head of family draw a slip of paper from the box.
When each family has selected a slip, they all open the papers together. The Hutchinson’s are the “winners. ” The process then repeats but this time, each family member must put his or her name in the black box. This is where the climax occurs. Everyone waits expectantly for the outcome to the lottery. As each slip is opened, the suspense builds and the villagers wait expectantly for the black spot that would signify the “winner. ” At the conclusion of the story, Mrs. Hutchinson is the “winner,” and as her prize, the citizens of the village stone her to death.
The conclusion to “The Lottery” is another irony. Mrs. Hutchinson was the last to arrive at the square because she had forgotten what day it was. It is satirical that she, the “winner,” almost did not make it to the lottery. Another example of irony at this time is when “voices across the crowd said, ‘Bill she made it after all,” (257) when in the end, she did not “make it. ” A bit of foreshadowing also occurs between the climax and ending. When Mrs. Hutchinson arrives late, she makes her way through the crowd and “She tapped Mrs.
Delacroix on the arm as a farewell” (257) The main characters in “The Lottery” are the villagers. They are flat and stagnant in characterization in that throughout the story the villagers remain relatively nonchalant and usual. Another relevant character in this story is Tessie Hutchinson. She, in the end, is round in her characterization. When she becomes the chosen one, she finally realizes how wrong the lottery is. “The Lottery” has many obvious themes and symbols as well as some that are not so easily observable. One of the main themes to this story is tradition.
In relation to the theme, Old Man Warner is a symbol of tradition. Throughout the story, he laments on the dwindling traditional values of the new generation. This is evident in his statement about them when he says, “Pack of crazy fools Listening to the young folks, nothing’s ood enough for them,” (258) indicating that he thinks the lottery is a good idea simply because it is tradition. He lasted through seventy-seven lotteries in which tradition was upheld with supposed pomp and circumstance. He could not understand the younger generation’s lack of traditionalism.
This brings up the next theme, which is people hate change because human nature is constant. “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,” (255) this statement clearly shows the villagers’ dislike for change. Even though “the black box grew shabbier each year,” (256) the people resolutely held to custom. This also shows that though the lottery may be an iniquitous act, it is upheld by tradition and the peoples’ reluctance to any divergence in their customary lives.
Relating to this accustomed lifestyle, there is also a sexist theme to this story. Women in this story hold no economic position. They have no other occupation except that of housewife. This assertion is reaffirmed in the procedures of the lottery. During the lottery, only the oldest working males in the family are allowed to draw for the family. When Mr. Dunbar has a broken leg, his wife must choose for him, however Mr. Summers says, “Don’t you have a grown boy to do it for you Janey? ” (257) This comment shows that a woman drawing in the lottery would be quite unusual.
In the end, Tessie Hutchinson, a woman, draws the black spot and is doomed to her death. Along these lines, the black spot along with the black box are both symbols of death. The color black lends itself to the tone of dissolution in the story. An obvious contention that the black spot symbolizes death is that the “winner” of the lottery is the person that draws the black spot. Sacrifice and compliance are also part of the theme. The lottery is a sacrifice of human life to the belief that in doing so, they would be better off for it.
The rationality to their notion of human sacrifice is working production. The reason that is given in the story for this immolation is stated by Old Man Warner, “Used to be a saying about ‘Lottery in June, corn is heavy soon. ‘ (258) His statement implies that the lottery is a sacrifice for a bountiful harvest. The theme of compliance is extremely predominant in “The Lottery. ” The villagers comply with the annual lottery with no questions asked. They do not question the finality or the morality of the lottery.
Compliance is also shown when Tessie Hutchinson, the mother, is stoned to death by her own children. ‘Someone gave little Davy Hutchinson a few pebbles. ‘(261) Compliance also relates to the fact that the villagers think of the lottery as a “civic activity. ” They are just doing their duty as citizens of the town. Shirley Jackson’s intent for writing this story was not only to shock the readers with inconceivable pointless violence and the extent of man’s inhumanity (254) but also to show the dark side of American society and of what we are capable.
This is similar to other points in history, such as: slavery, the Salem witch trials, and the extermination of the American Indians. All three of those examples involve inhumanity without the usual American apathy. Though inhumanity does exist, it is usually without active support. However, in the examples mentioned before, people acted on their ordinarily latent barbarity. The Holocaust is another parallel to “The Lottery. ” The senseless genocide of the Jewish populace is very much similar to the ridiculousness of the lottery. In essence, “The Lottery,” is a mirror of the human subconscious.
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