Critical essay”The Lottery” by Shirley JacksonIn “The Lottery,” Shirley Jackson uses symbolism to make us aware of thepointless nature of humanity regarding tradition and violence. The story starts offon a beautiful summer day in a small town. The author describes the day as veryeuphoric but strikes a contrast between the atmosphere of the town and theatmosphere of the people gathered in the square.
The atmosphere is subdued,where the children are “gathered around quietly. “The black box is the central theme or idea in the story. It symbolizes atfirst some type of mystery, but as we read the ending we realize that it issynonymous with doom. Someone’s fate lies in an inanimate object, the blackbox. We do not always enjoy change, even if it might prove beneficial to us. The box is symbolic of our loathing of change; it is old and splintered showingthat we cling to what is familiar rather than change and it also symbolizes thetraditions of the community.Order now
No one in the little town questions the origin ofthe black box, but accept it as an intrical part of their lives. There is alwaysdiscussion of people getting a new box, but no one ever really goesthrough with it. “Everuy year, after the lottery, Mr. Summers began talkingagain about a new box, but every year the subject was allowed to fadeoff without anything’s being done”. The lottery itself is symbolic of the paradox of the human psyche betweencompassion on one hand and the thirst for violence and cruelty on the other. An example of this is when the children are enjoying a break from school,playing and being children, and suddenly they are being joined by “rational”adults in stoning a mother to death.
It appears that tradition has blinded thesepeople in an irrational way, making them unable to think of a reason why thispossibly should not be happening. When forced with the possibility of death, human nature in all itscomplexity, comes down to one instinctive urge, that of survival. When Tessiewas in no danger she was gossiping with the other ladies and even encouragedher husband to go and pick a piece of paper. When Tessie wins the lottery; shepleads for another chance and screams for mercy. She demands that herdaughters take their chances as well, which is indicative of regressiontoward our basic instinct of survival. The pieces of paper that are lifted away by the breeze is not only symbolicof the ease with which life can be taken but is also symbolic of vast civilizationsthat were doomed to eventual failure for believing in and acting on traditionand not living according to the word of God.
We see that even as Tessie isbeing stoned to death does she not question the reasoning behind the lottery,but why it should be her that has to die. The story also has some symbolic relevance to when it was written in 1948. This was a time where a lot of countries were rebuilding there nations due to thedestruction they undertook in World War II. These nations were restructuringhow they handled world problems, and how they ran there own countries.
There was a lot of change after the war; people were not the same becauseso many had been affected by it. I think that this story tries to capture some ofthat. One example in the book was, “There had been , also, a ritual salute,which the official of the lottery had had to use in addressing each personwho came up to draw from the box, but this also had changed with time, untilnow it was felt necessary only for the official to speak to each personapproaching. ” I feel that this shows that she interpreted the story to whatwas going on in the world around her, and how the world was changing so much. Traditions that people used to feel very strong about were starting to be brokendown by the change in time, and world around them.
As much as The Lottery symbolizes tradition the driving force throughout the story is sacrifice. The author of the, The Lottery used foreshadowingand an astounding plot to present a tale about a melancholy sacrifice. Sacrifice plays a large role in the acute community. It instills a form ofobedience and loyalty towards the morbid tradition. Although tradition changesover time ; the villagers over all concept of sacrifice is never lost.
Jackson the author of The Lottery uses sacrifice to build an extremelyoriginal plot. Jackson wrote the story as if it were a favorable lottery to throughoff the readers consistency and twist the plot. Through out the story the authorleaves helpful hints to make the theme apparent. For example when Jacksonwrote ” Bobby Martin had already stuffed his pockets full of rock and the otherboys started to follow his example”, and “eventually made a great pile of stonesin the corner of the square. ” This sign of foreshadowing show’s what methodof sacrifice is to be used within the short story.
The town had no other choice than to mastermind the lottery. In The Lottery Old Man Warner said” Listen to those young folk, nothing’s goodenough for them. Next thing you know, they’ll be wanting to go back to living incaves, nobody work any more, live like that for a while. ” This quotes intent wasto show how much harder it was for the community to strive while living in caves. Also while living in caves the public civilization at the time was in ruin.
They hadcome up with the idea to use a theory brought upon by other communitiesaround them. Their approach to the theory was to eliminate one individualannually ;so that their crops would come in. They chose this method ofsacrifice in order to yield themselves from the responsibility and burdenof murder. Even though the towns lottery has lost all traditional value the sacrificinghas held steadfast. As it says in The Lottery ” although the villagers hadforgotten the ritual and lost the original black box, they still remember to usethe rocks.
” This quote means that even though their tradition has gone offcourse they will always hold to their beliefs about sacrifice. To summarize theyheld true to their beliefs because of apprehension. So tradition hassubconsciously made the community unaware of their horrible actions. The citizens of the village are not afraid of change. They are afraid ofwhat change will bring. The present community has never known a yearwithout the lottery or depleted crops.
They fear if they if they disband from thetraditional sacrifice their crops will fail. Also their warm safe homes will fadeaway and the dampened caves that have become so fictional to them willappear to be realistic problems.