The Lottery, written by Shirley Jackson, is a short story set around early 20th century in a small American village. Throughout the entire story Jackson plays psychological games with the readers mind. Jackson leaves clues and symbols all through the story; however, it could be easy for a reader to not fully understand the meaning until the end.
This town is very traditional and set in their ways. Every year there is a ritual they call a lottery. The word lottery portrays positive thoughts to an everyday reader. However, the towns people do not see the lottery as a positive thing.
Although, it is something they have done and probably will do for years to come, they are beginning to realize Its not the way it used to be, said old man Warner (Jackson 249). They hold a lottery once every year in June. The winner of the lottery is not really a winner at all; the person in the town who draws the marked paper is stoned. Originally, the towns people truly believed they were casting their sins on the winner. Once their sins were dead, the crops would be fertile. Old man Warner quoted to a younger man an old saying, Lottery in June, corn be heavy soon (Jackson 248), he passing down the tradition by explaining why their ancestors performed the ritual. Regardless of tradition this ritual is wrong.
It is wrong for the reason of, the towns people do not completely understand what they are doing, they are playing God, and murdering innocent people. Tradition is often held by obligation. Like the black box, that holds the marked paper, the tradition is fading. The towns people do not seem to completely understand why they are holding this tradition. The story explains that the towns people forget certain aspects of the ritual and lost the original box. However, they do not forget the stones (249). Reason being, they hold the lottery because of what they know, and what they know is what they have been told.
If sins are cast out on one person and stone them, the crops will be fertile, as it is said, Lottery in June, Corn be heavy soon (248). However, things are changing and the towns people realize that, but are trying not to change. This is shown by Mr. Summers rushing the ritual as he says, lets finish quickly (Jackson 249).
The explanation of how the lottery works starts in the beginning of the story. It is explained: the pure white pieces of paper are placed in the box, with one piece marked with a black dot. This black dot symbolizes sin. There are just enough slips of paper in the box to represent each family in the town. The head of the house hold, the man, would go pick out, from the box, a piece of paper. Which ever family had the dot, they would then put enough slips for each member in the family and each would draw (246). The one who selects the marked paper is the one that is stoned.
This can be seen as playing God. People are not meant to choose who dies and who lives. That is what the towns people are doing.
Although they see it as casting their sins out to receive fruitful crops it is still wrong and it still playing God. The tradition does not change anything. Another reason it could be seen as playing God is, Jesus was innocent and was sent down to die for the worlds sins; For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life (John 3:16). Although Jesus dying for the worlds sins is right, man choosing man to die for sins is wrong. The difference is, God chose Jesus to die, and the towns people are those choosing the one to die.As it was previously stated the black dot on the white paper symbolizes sin on an innocent person.
These towns people are killing an innocent person each year. They are teaching their children how to do this, and that it is okay to murder. The story starts by introducing the town and the children. In the beginning, the children are talking with friends while setting up a pile of stones and filling their pockets.
Towards the end of the story the children know exactly what to do once the winner is reveled, The Children had stones already, and someone gave little Davy Hutchinson a few pebbles (249). This makes no sense. Murder is murder; there is no good reason for killing an innocent human being, regardless of which century it is in.
Although, things were done differently in the early 20th century, most all morals are the same. Just because the culture was different, it still does not excuse murder, and playing God. Regardless of tradition, or if they completely understood what they were doing, the ritual is wrong.Work CitedShirley Jackson. The Lottery.
Literature, an introduction to reading and writing. 7th ed. Roberts, Edgar V.
and Henry E. Jacobs. New Jersey: Upper Saddle River. 2004. 244-250.