Thursday, April 22, 2010

Literary Essay on The Lottery by Shirley Jackson

From the beginning of the civilization on earth, people have many different superstitions, or beliefs about life. People believe if they were to do certain things, they would have good luck. Some of these superstitions go on for such long periods of time and people do them so often that they become traditions or rituals. Also, people who conform to old rituals and traditions often lose their minds and commit vicious actions against others out of tradition. For instance, some Hindu communities used to immolate a virgin to satisfy Goddess Kali from their beliefs that this sacrifice would bring luck and prosperity for them. In her short story, "The Lottery", Shirley Jackson is trying to point out that kind of evidences which people do in the name of tradition or ritual by describing a small town where the people have been taught to believe that in order for their crop to be abundant for the year, some individual have to be sacrificed.

The ritualistic characteristics of the lottery reveal through evidences like town people’s commentary on the traditional and modern ways of holding the lottery as well as observation of this gear’s proceedings. In the very beginning of the story, we see people of a small town gathers in the central square on June 27th to celebrate the annual lottery, right before the crop season. Among them there is much excitement and interest as the rituals of the event proceed. Every year the villagers take each persons name, make them to draw slips of paper from the black box. The person, who gets the paper with the mark on in, wins the lottery and gets stoned to death. They justify this dangerous ritual from the belief that “Lottery in June, corn be heavy soon” which means if they have a lottery before cropping season they will have a good season. This is one of those beliefs, or superstitions, they have that makes to think that their luck is going to become good.

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According to old man Warner, who has been attending the lottery for seventy-seven years, villagers would be ‘crazy’ to give up the lottery. When Mr. Adam told old man Warner that the north village was talking about giving up the lottery, old man Warner snorted, “Pack of crazy fools. Listening to young folks, nothing’s good for them.” He then warned the villagers that their work ethics would be destroyed as soon as they gave up the lottery. He commented negative about the people who were talking to give up the lottery that “next thing you know, they'll be wanting to go back to living in caves, nobody work any more, live that way for a while”. Thus, the belief of disrupting the corn season by giving up the lottery and the fear of getting chosen for the lottery made the people of the town to destroy each other instead of working together to destroy the tradition.

As Tessie Hutchinson is getting stoned, someone from her community puts a stone in her son's hand. Even the closest family member participates in the horror. "The children had stones already, and someone gave little Davey Hutchinson a few pebbles." (Jackson, The Lottery page 297) This action shows how tradition is being passed on literally from generation to generation. This stoning is the way that the people of the community act out their fear of being singled out, separated from the herd, being the one stoned. In other words, the tradition is so powerful and it has existed so long that no one will challenge it because they fear to change.

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