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Shirley Jackson's The Lottery Literary Analysis

1025 words - 5 pages

A Deadly Tradition

English 1302

Summer 2 Online

August 4th, 2013

A Deadly Tradition

Throughout history people have united under a common purpose to create wonderful things.

Advances in medical research, progress in social equality, and coming together after natural disasters

are all examples of humanity at its best. Unfortunately where there is a capacity for goodness, there

is also one for evil. This 'dark' side of human nature transforms a society into vicious mob that

wreaks devastating havoc and destruction. In her short story The Lottery, Shirley Jackson uses

imagery and symbolism to offer a ...view middle of the document...

It 'grew shabbier

each year; by now it was no longer completely black but splintered badly along one side.' (Jackson

221) The worn condition of the box depicts the many years of the superstitious tradition. The adage

“Lottery in June, corn be heavy soon,” (Jackson 224) was murmured by old man Warner. This phrase

is symbolic of 'the possibility of human sacrifice' (Votteler 249) which is the only clue as to the

townspeople's reasoning for the lottery and the annual stoning of one of it's citizens. Other symbols

include: the plain clothes the citizens wore which represent their ordinary nature, the names Mr.

Summers and Mr. Graves are symbolic of the contrast of the mood at the beginning and the

ending of the story, and Old man Warner symbolizes both tradition and the ignorance of the masses,

blindly following a superstitious ritual year after year.

Mrs. Jackson illuminates the dark side of human nature when the townspeople barbarically

stone Tessie Hutchison at the end of the story. One critic of the work believes 'that the story reflects

humankind's ancient need of a scapegoat, a figure upon which it can project its most undesirable

qualities, and which can be destroyed in a ritually absolving sacrifice.' (Cromie 181) Other critics of

the work “have interpreted the story as a satire of several social evils, including sexism, racial

prejudice, and the willingness of people to engage collectively in abhorrent behavior.”(Votteler 249)

The theme of The Lottery is unclear throughout the story until the last few paragraphs. Jackson

effectively reveals the dangers associated with blind obedience in regards to ritual and tradition.

It is shocking when such ordinary people suddenly commit brutal acts of violence. Jackson

manages to obscure the thoughts and personal feelings of the characters. As a result there is no

way to measure their sense of right and wrong. Mrs. Hutchison is the only character that

develops throughout the story. When her family, and then she is selected in the lottery, she

quickly begins to panic. “You didn't give him time to take the paper he wanted. I saw you. It wasn't

fair.” (Jackson 225) Only when Mrs. Hutchison becomes the victim of the lottery does she...

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