Dangerous Traditions

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Dangerous Tradition
Traditions are normally comforting rituals, with deep roots in religious or familial events. They usually are cause for celebration and coming together with family and community. When the roots of our traditions are forgotten then the reason for carrying on the custom is lost. Shirley Jackson writes about the dark side of following rituals mindlessly in her story, “The Lottery”. Jackson resolutely conveys this theme using palpable symbolism, irrational faith, and senseless sacrifice.

The story is full of conspicuous symbolism and dual meaning. The man who is the postmaster and co-chair of the lottery, is aptly named, Mr. Graves. Jackson tells how, “The night before the lottery. Mr. Summers and Mr. Graves made up the slips of paper and put them in the box until Mr. Summers was ready to take it to the square the next morning” (253). Mr. Graves’ name is definitely symbolic for what is coming in the pressing future. Jackson also tells about the dilapidated black box used in the lottery process, “There was a story that the present box had been made with some pieces of the box that had preceded it” (252). The continued use of the decrepit box symbolizes their persistent need for tradition. Amy Griffin states, “Jackson creates balance by juxtaposing Mr. Summers and Mr. Graves to share in the responsibilities of the ritual: Life brings death, and death recycles life” (par.2). Both of Jackson’s characters’ names are ingrained in symbolism.

One of the things that provide a society with a conscience is our faith in something greater than us. This usually motivates us to live morally. The villagers in Jackson’s sordid tale have faith that their sacrifice will garner a great harvest. Old Man Warner aptly says, “Lottery in June, corn be heavy soon” (Jackson 256). Their belief in this exonerates any feelings of guilt or wrong doing. The villagers also seem to have an unwavering faith in their own luck; none of them seem to even...
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