The Lottery, written by Shirley Jackson, is a short story about a tiny village that conducts what would be considered a cruel and inhuman tradition each year, The Lottery. The village tradition involves the drawing amongst each household and their family members to determine who wins the Lottery each year. The drawing is completely random and everyone in the village must participate. I assumed when I started to read this that when someone wins the lottery they are being rewarded in money or goods, but this is far from the truth. The winner of the lottery wins death, he or she will be stoned to death by their own neighbours, friends and family. The Lottery involves the usage of certain characters and symbols to explain how traditions and cultures of a community are not always considered morally good traditions, but in the eyes of the perpetrator, it is normal.
The beginning of this story starts with a description of the wonderful weather and how the people interact, which is like any other tiny town where everyone is friendly and knows one another. Shirley Jackson uses a happy tone at the start, making it virtually impossible for the reader to guess the gruesome ending. Jackson makes the ending even more horrific by giving the story such a peaceful, happy setting and normal interactions. Jackson writes about the social ambience of the women and how everything is the way it always was. The women “greeted one another and exchanged bits of gossip as they went to join their husbands”, just like how they usually would. The children are playing and collecting rocks, which indicated to me that the upcoming event is a cheerful one with a happy outcome. Yet, it is said numerous times that no one knows what the ritual actually means and why they take part in it. This did confuse me a bit because most people are familiar with their own traditions and why they do them. I think that this part of the story scared me the most because of how causal and normal the children and women are just before they know they are going to kill potentially family or friends. In addition, after getting familiar with the names of the characters, I noticed that Mr. Summer’s name is upbeat and happy, while his assistants name, Mr. Graves, is gloomy, perhaps foreshadowing the death of Mrs. Hutchinson. But, more importantly, to show how each person has an underlying evil inside them, whether it be doing nothing about the tradition or trying to stop it.
I thought that one of the main themes in this text was holding on to tradition. From the beginning of time “There’s always been a Lottery” and that’s what is normal for them. I think that holding onto traditions is not always a good thing and you need to try change, but in some cases it is not possible. I felt really upset when I thought about all the children who have grown up or are growing up in such a cruel place where tradition over rides human rights, buts it normal for them likes its normal for us to wake up every morning. When I read that some places where talking about giving up the Lottery, I thought that maybe there was still a chance for people to hold onto what humanity was left in a world where tradition is to stone innocent people to death. In places like India, tradition over rides human rights too. Bride Burning is still happening today with up to 8400 deaths per year, which turns out to be a horrific one dowry death an hour. This is a tradition I think should stop, but the people who have grown up with that tradition around them think it’s just normal and it isn’t. Just like how stoning an innocent person to death isn’t normal either to us, but not to the innocent people who must partake in the Lottery.
One symbol in the story I thought was really important and supports the main theme of blindly holding on to tradition was when Mr Summers “dropped all the papers but those onto the ground. where the breeze caught them, and lifted them off.” This is a metaphorical to the 295 people who didn’t get chosen. The papers flying free out of the box means to me that those people are speared and freed, until the next Lottery. I felt that the symbol of the old worn down black box represents the Lottery. The box has been through every single Lottery, and it is so worn down and abused, just like how that tradition is. I think that the people of the village are too afraid to build a new black box because when they abandon the old box and build a new one, they may be tempted to abandon the tradition as well, which is a change they feel they are not ready for and, frankly, I think that change scares them.
I thought that the use of characters in the short story allows for a better perception of how immoral the tradition is. For instance, Old Man Warner, who is known to be the oldest man in the entire village, reveals that he has seen the Lottery drawing be conducted each year for seventy-seven years. “”They do say,” Mr. Adams said to Old Man Warner, who stood next to him, ‘that over in the north village they’re talking of giving up the Lottery.” 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 works anymore, live that way for a while”. I think that this quote shows how set in their ways they are. They think that if they change tradition things would change for the worst. Another villager tells Old Man Warner that other villages are considering ending the Lottery drawings. Old Man Warner then goes on to say that those villagers are crazy to end the tradition. He then compares it to society becoming cavemen or jobless. Old Man Warner is a prime example of why the tradition is so disturbing and relatable to almost anything today. I can see that he is a man of tradition and believes in keeping the Lottery the same and any change would be catastrophic to the village. But I also feel that Old Man Warner is not taking advantage of the power he does have being the oldest member to influence the village better. Old Man Warner only uses his knowledge and influence on the village to convince them to carry on with the Lottery. As a reader I would assume that Old Man Warner would try to stop the Lottery from ever occurring again since he has already witnessed seventy- six murders of innocent people, and surely that would be enough to try to put a stop to it. Old Man Warner is blinded by what most readers would consider a cruel tradition, but what he sees as ordinary.
This text can be linked to multiple situations outside of the text. For example, there are traditions in places in Asia where girls as young as me can be promised to other males in the most permanent arrangement, marriage. I think that getting married at such a young age is horrible but to be forced into marrying someone your parents chose is worse. Every year, 12 million girls under the age of 18 are forced into arranged marriages, that turns out to be a shocking 23 girls a minute and astonishingly, nearly 1 every 2 seconds. This is a tradition that people are holding on to and I think it’s a tradition that needs to change as it is a major breach of multiple basic human rights. But, to those people stuck in the tradition it is just the normal thing to do and it makes me really upset, just like how the children growing up with the Lottery.
In my opinion, Shirley Jackson used Old Man Warner’s character, symbols such as the box and the paper to reveal how the Lottery is corrupt and how no one seems to notice how immoral it is. I think that Old Man Warner is shown as a man who believes in keeping thing exactly how they are and he uses that influence to make other villagers to believe and act the same way. I learnt from this story an undesirable reality where traditions are more important than life and how traditions of people can sometimes be overlooked even though they are considered wrong to us. Overall, I thought that this was a great text. It made me think deeply about the issues revolved around tradition in the world and what traditions I have that may be immoral or not just.