25, April 2011
The idea of social change is something that I would say, deep down, scares us all. When looking at two stories in particular you can see an evolution over the years. Saying this I wonder when you do look very closely at “The Lottery” by Shirley Jackson and “Shooting an Elephant” by George Orwell how much you will find alike, but also how much you will find different based on the time period in which they were written. Social Change is not something that’s easy for some people. However, it normally takes place over a time frame of years, therefore making it harder to notice when it is actually taking place. In today’s world, researchers and scientist have even been able to come up with ways in which they believe social change is taking place and can be predicted to an extent.
“The Lottery” took place back in 1948, which is when it was written. Needless to say a lot of the social trends and social norms they had back then are not easily compared with the values of today’s society. What we call socially acceptable today is vastly different than what was acceptable in the 40’s. The values of society then were much more conservative. Today if I were to walk in on a social event like the lottery, wearing shorts and a t-shirt, I bet I would be the one selected to get stoned on the spot. Those days’s it was only acceptable for men to wear long pants and maybe a t-shirt.
As the back ground of “The Lottery” is reveled, you are given more information on the social traditions of their fictional society. It makes you wonder if this is actually something that ever took place in history, or if it was something inspired by the culture of the 1940’s. Today we think of a lottery as being something were you have the chance to win money, but this story shows how different lotteries were then. In this story the author portrays “The Lottery” as an event were the entire village is gathered in the courtyard to draw a piece of paper out of a hat. If you were lucky enough to choose the piece of paper out of the hat with a large black dot on it, then you were not the winning a prize. The person who draws the black dot gots stoned to death. During the 1940’s World War Two was taking place. It makes me wonder why the author, Shirley Jackson, wrote a story about people coming together to decide who gets stoned to death (“America’s”). The activities of Adolf Hitler and the Nazi’s in Germany and the persecution of the Jewish community could have influenced the story line. Considering the story is about a community assembling and deciding at random who gets to die, World War II would be a fitting influence for the author.
“Shooting an Elephant” has a lot of similar social problems that “The Lottery” had, but in a very different context. The elements of peer pressure and social acceptance come out in the story. Both issues are still important in today’s society. This is based on my interpretation of the story, realizing how social change is an important part of evolution. The end of the story speaks volumes about why the young man shoots the elephant. The animal was no longer being destructive or harmful. He shot the elephant because people wanted him to. “I often wonder whether any of the others grasped that I had done is solely to avoid looking a fool” is the last line from the story “Shooting an Elephant”. This is further evidence that the elephant’s death was a result of social pressures. Since there were two thousand people standing behind him, waiting on him to make a move, he thought he would look like a coward if he didn’t shoot it. The villagers wanted the elephant shot for it’s meat, not just because it was running through their village. It is safe to say that social pressures were major in this time period. The story actually takes place in 1936, when it was published. You can see that “the Lottery” and “Shooting an Elephant” take place around the same time period. The setting of the...