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The Lottery

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Shirley Jackson's insights and observations about man and

society are reflected in her famous short story "The

Lottery". Many of her readers have found this story

shocking and disturbing. Jackson reveals two general

attitudes in this story: first, the shocking reality of human's

tendency to select a scapegoat and second, society as a

victim of tradition and ritual.

Throughout history we have witnessed and participated in

many events, where, in time of turmoil and hardship,

society has a tendency to seize upon a scapegoat as means

of resolution. The people of the village had been taught to

believe that in order for their crop to be abundant for the

year, some individual had to be sacrificed. "Lottery in June,

corn be heavy soon", said Old Man Warner. The irony

here is that villagers are aware that this act is inhumane but

none want to stand and voice their opinion, for fear of

going against society's standards and being outcast or

being stoned. "It's not the way it used to be," Old Man

Warner said clearly. "People ain't the way they used to

be." Fear that if they go against society they might be

chosen as the lottery winner or there might be a truth, after

all, that it would disrupt their corn season. "Some places

have already quit lotteries," Mrs. Adams said. "Nothing but

trouble in that," Old Man Warner said stoutly. "Pack of

young fools." In stoning Tessie, the villagers treat her as a

scapegoat onto which they can project and repress their

own temptations to rebel. The only person who shows their

rebellious attitude is Tessie. She does not appear to take

the ritual seriously, as she comes rushing to the square

because she "clean forgot what day it was". The villagers

are aware of her rebellious attitude and they are weary that

she may be a possible cause for their crops not to be

plentiful. "It isn't fair, it isn't right," Mrs. Hutchinson

screamed, and then they were upon her.

We can understand how traditions are easily lost through

the handing down of information, beliefs, and customs by

word of mouth or by example from one generation to

another. It is how traditions that lose their meaning due to

human forgetfulness can cause dreadful consequences to

occur. Although "the villagers had forgotten the ritual and

lost the original box, they still remembered to use stones".

Do people just pick and choose which part of a tradition

they want to keep? We tend to remember the actions and

the objects necessary to proceed with a ritual, but we

always seem to forget the purpose or the reason behind it.

Are we correct in still continuing the tradition even though

there is a victim involved? It seems we, as part of a society,




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(2010, 08). The Lottery. Retrieved 08, 2010, from

"The Lottery" 08 2010. 2010. 08 2010 <>.

"The Lottery.", 08 2010. Web. 08 2010. <>.

"The Lottery." 08, 2010. Accessed 08, 2010.