Argument Essay on the Lottery by Shirley Jackson with Works Cited Page

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“The Lottery” by Shirley Jackson is about Symbolism

"The Lottery," a short story written by Shirley Jackson, is a tale about an inhumane

and horrific tradition that a community celebrates every year between 10 a.m. and noon

on June 27, a sunny day, in a New England village (“Cummings Study Guide”). Not only

is this story about tradition but it also hides the meaning of symbolism as well. The

setting takes place in a small village consisting of about three hundred people. On June

twenty-seventh of every year, the members of this traditional community hold a village

wide lottery in which everyone is expected to participate. A black box holds hundreds of

pieces of paper that each member of the community must choose from. There is one

piece of paper that has a marking of a dot on it. The paper with this marking means an

unfair fate for the person who has picked it. This fate is ultimately a casual murder of

being stoned to death that the whole town is guilty of.

In this lottery, the winner sacrifices his or her own life for the sake of the tradition.

Through the actions and contrast of settings, Shirley Jackson shows the inhumanity of

the traditional lottery and points out the cruelty of people and the relationship between

the people. It becomes apparent this community is very weak-minded. The people in

this community have no respect for the ritual itself, they just want to hurry up and find

out who won, and get to the stoning. In response to questions about the “meaning” of Long 2

the story, Shirley Jackson wrote in the San Francisco Chronicle (July 22, 1948):

“Explaining just what I had hoped the story to say is very difficult. I suppose, I hoped, by

setting a particularly brutal ancient rite in the present and in my own village to shock the

story`s readers with a graphic dramatization of the pointless violence and general

inhumanity in their own lives.” (“Private Demons. The Life of Shirley Jackson”).

The symbols of “The Lottery” become a bit clearer when you consider and

understand that the author was a woman in 1948 America (Modern Short Stories).

This made her someone who had a lot of reason to find the longstanding traditions to

be just as vile as those traditions in "The Lottery". Whether this was segregation, the

lack of free voting rights or any of the many other traditions which still exist primarily

because they have always existed. These are traditions which are often difficult for

those who are not hurt by them to see clearly and that stories like “The Lottery” help to

illuminate. In addition, a woman being the one chosen by the lottery is important. This is

in some way the author putting herself symbolically into the place of the victim. Just as

important, it shows the tradition has subverted the natural instinct men have to protect

women. It also made the victim of the lottery someone who was hurt by tradition in the

nonfictional world as well. slide 6 of 6

"The Lottery” is filled with symbols. This story is in many ways

a parable more than a traditional story. A society so mired in its traditions that it has lost

the ability to even look at the reasons for those traditions, but instead follows them

blindly even when they hurt its citizens. Since this is a danger every society faces “The

Lottery” remains relevant in part because the symbols in the story are never fully

explained ("The Lottery: Symbolic Tour").

The Lottery is just another day to the people of this community. The people pile the

stones high in the corner and gather on-time before the drawing. The women are

gossiping and the children are playing with the stones that are piled in the corner,

seeming oblivious to the horror that they agree with yet you can tell they are almost

trying to hide their nervousness. The stones are a symbol for tradition. Rocks are...
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