The Lottery

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When Shirley Jackson wrote “The Lottery” she received many letters from many horrified readers who were shocked by the seemingly realness of the story. Although the short story was fictional, the characters and situations the story symbolized were very much real. Jackson uses this symbolism to help convey her message: traditions should not be allowed to be unexamined and unchanged. One character, for whom the symbolism is so deep that she dies as a result of it, is Tessie Hutchinson.

Tessie Hutchinson’s symbolism is quite literally her death. She ends up being killed as a result of the Lottery, but it is no coincidence that it is she who is the one to pull the slip of paper with a mark of coal. Tessie bears the name Hutchinson, the same name as religious reformer Anne Hutchinson of the 17th century who was banished from the Massachusetts colony for her upsetting of religious tradition in that colony. In the contemporary story of “The Lottery,” Tessie upsets tradition in a less extreme fashion than Anne, but is forced to pay the price with her life. Her first offense to tradition is arriving late to the lottery drawing, claiming she, “clean forgot what day it was.” (783) Unlike the reader at the time, Tessie knows the lottery is the day when someone from the community is selected to be stoned, and it is unlikely that she completely forgot it was the day of the lottery.

Tessie Hutchinson falls victim to the lottery because her husband pulled the slip of paper for the household. When she sees her husband Bill has drawn the slip with the fatal mark on the paper, she quickly snaps, “you didn’t give him time enough to take any paper he wanted. I saw you. It wasn’t fair.” (786) By making the biggest stir, she then symbolically indicts herself already. Tessie goes as far as to pass the looming death sentence off on her daughter Eva (who has married and draws with another family).

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