Shirley Jackson’s “The Lottery” talks about a community that follows a tradition. Every year the people take everyone’s name, put it in a black box, and pick the name of a person. This person they stone to death. Their reason range from an idea that having the lottery makes them civilized to an idea that the lottery makes for good crops. The author suggests that the real reason is societys need for a victim. When talking about communities that have given up the tradition of choosing one person to stone to death, “Old Man Warner snorted, ‘Pack of crazy fools’ he said.
Listening to the young folks, nothing’s good enough for them. Next thing you know, they’ll be wanting to go back to living in caves, nobody work any more, live that way for a while. Used to be a saying about “Lottery in June, corn be heavy soon. “‘” (Jackson, The Granta… Page 66) This tradition causes the people of the town to destroy each other instead of working together to destroy the tradition. As Tessie Hutchinson is getting stoned, someone from her community puts a stone in her son’s hand.
Even the closest family member participates in the horror. “The children had stones already, and someone gave little Davey Hutchinson a few pebbles. ” (Jackson, The Granta… page 62-63) This action shows how tradition is being passed on literally from hand to hand. This stoning is the way that the people of the community act out their fear of being singled out, separated from the herd, being the one stoned. The stoning has been passed down from generation to generation. One reason that the tradition is so powerful is that it has existed so long.
No one will challenge it because they fear to change. The box where the slips of paper are drawn from is deteriorated. Its deterioration symbolizes how long the lottery has been operating. “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, The Granta… page 63)
They are all afraid of getting chosen for the lottery and so instead of standing up for one another and stopping the lottery they just go along with it. At one moment they’re laughing together and the next they’re stoning one of them to death. The lottery is a symbol of how fear is taught and handed down from generation to generation. People can’t stand up to tradition, they’re afraid of change. They are afraid to band together and change. No one wants to be the one stoned, but they will stone the one picked.
Both stories are about fear of change. A fear of losing the known and gaining a new way of life is common to both stories. Even though the stories are told differently–one through a narrators personal point of view and one as a symbolic story, they both make a comment on how society is afraid of being governed by something that is not traditional and how society destructively deals with difference, the non-Caucasian people in “The State of Grace” or the one person fate chooses in “The Lottery.
This fears that society have generated and feed on causes people to destroy each other. In “the State of Grace” the narrator is unable to love or be loved, and in “The Lottery” the people stone a chosen person each year. Both reflect the general anxiety of the time in which they were written, the Fifties.