“” Literature 115 Essay # 1The story entitled “The Lottery,” written by Shirley Jackson is anintriguing and shocking parable. “The Lottery” is set in a small village ona clear summer day. Written in objective third person point of view, “TheLottery” keeps the reader in suspense as the story progresses. This storyshows 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 andsunny, with the fresh warmth of a full-summer day; the flowers wereblossoming profusely and the grass was richly green.
” (255) To describesuch a beautiful day when the ending is so ill fated is very ironic. Thevillagers, all three hundred of them, gather in the square. There is afeeling of excitement and relative normalcy as the people talk of theireveryday happenings. The lottery is conducted by Mr. Summers, as he is theone that directs the “civic activities” of the town.
The night before thelottery, all of the families have their names placed in a black box. Theday of the lottery, Mr. Summers has each head of family draw a slip ofpaper from the box.
When each family has selected a slip, they all open thepapers together. The Hutchinson’s are the “winners.” The process thenrepeats but this time, each family member must put his or her name in theblack box. This is where the climax occurs. Everyone waits expectantly forthe outcome to the lottery. As each slip is opened, the suspense builds andthe 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. Theconclusion to “The Lottery” is another irony. Mrs.
Hutchinson was the lastto arrive at the square because she had forgotten what day it was. It issatirical that she, the “winner,” almost did not make it to the lottery.Another example of irony at this time is when “voices across the crowdsaid, ‘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 andending. When Mrs. Hutchinson arrives late, she makes her way through thecrowd and “She tapped Mrs. Delacroix on the arm as a farewell” (257) The main characters in “The Lottery” are the villagers.
They areflat and stagnant in characterization in that throughout the story thevillagers remain relatively nonchalant and usual. Another relevantcharacter in this story is Tessie Hutchinson. She, in the end, is round inher characterization. When she becomes the chosen one, she finally realizeshow wrong the lottery is. “The Lottery” has many obvious themes and symbols as well as somethat are not so easily observable. One of the main themes to this story istradition. In relation to the theme, Old Man Warner is a symbol oftradition.
Throughout the story, he laments on the dwindling traditionalvalues of the new generation. This is evident in his statement about themwhen he says, “Pack of crazy fools Listening to the young folks, nothing’sgood enough for them,” (258) indicating that he thinks the lottery is agood idea simply because it is tradition. He lasted through seventy-sevenlotteries in which tradition was upheld with supposed pomp andcircumstance. He could not understand the younger generation’s lack oftraditionalism. This brings up the next theme, which is people hate changebecause human nature is constant. “Mr. Summers spoke frequently to thevillagers about making a new box, but no one liked to upset even as muchtradition as was represented by the black box,” (255) this statementclearly shows the villagers’ dislike for change.
Even though “the black boxgrew shabbier each year,” (256) the people resolutely held to custom. Thisalso shows that though the lottery may be an iniquitous act, it is upheldby tradition and the peoples’ reluctance to any divergence in theircustomary lives. Relating to this accustomed lifestyle, there is also asexist theme to this story. Women in this story hold no economic position.
They have no other occupation except that of housewife. This assertion isreaffirmed in the procedures of the lottery. During the lottery, only theoldest working males in the family are allowed to draw for the family. WhenMr. 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 quiteunusual. In the end, Tessie Hutchinson, a woman, draws the black spot andis doomed to her death.
Along these lines, the black spot along with theblack box are both symbols of death. The color black lends itself to thetone of dissolution in the story. An obvious contention that the black spotsymbolizes death is that the “winner” of the lottery is the person thatdraws 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 humansacrifice is working production. The reason that is given in the story forthis 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 thelottery is a sacrifice for a bountiful harvest. The theme of compliance isextremely predominant in “The Lottery.” The villagers comply with theannual lottery with no questions asked. They do not question the finalityor the morality of the lottery.
Compliance is also shown when TessieHutchinson, the mother, is stoned to death by her own children. ‘Someonegave little Davy Hutchinson a few pebbles.'(261) Compliance also relates tothe 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 toshock the readers with inconceivable pointless violence and the extent ofman’s inhumanity (254) but also to show the dark side of American societyand of what we are capable. This is similar to other points in history,such as: slavery, the Salem witch trials, and the extermination of theAmerican Indians. All three of those examples involve inhumanity withoutthe usual American apathy.
Though inhumanity does exist, it is usuallywithout active support. However, in the examples mentioned before, peopleacted on their ordinarily latent barbarity. The Holocaust is anotherparallel to “The Lottery.” The senseless genocide of the Jewish populace isvery much similar to the ridiculousness of the lottery. In essence, “TheLottery,” is a mirror of the human subconscious.Work Cited”The Lottery” by Shirley JacksonLiterature: An Introduction to Fiction, Poetry, and Drama X.
J. Kennedy andDana GioiaEssay Reflection Worksheet 1. I chose this piece from the book because the title and the descriptionsounded intriguing to me. After I read the story, I immediately tookinterest into why someone would right something so ironic andabrasive. 2. My thesis describes the cruelty people are capable of committing, andtheir justification through tradition.
The essay includes severaldirect references to the piece. Old Man Warner’s comments give clarityand support to my thesis. The behavior of the townspeople is alsoreferenced. 3. Comprehension: specific references to the text were made.
Application:demonstrate how tradition applies to people and society. Analysis:comparisons between today’s injustices and those presented in thestory. Synthesis: combine the information and clues offered throughoutthe story with my own knowledge to complete the levels of interpretingliterature. Evaluate: I feel as though I justified my interpretationof the piece. 4.
I am most pleased about the fluidity of the essay. 5. I learned that analyzing literature is hard!