Themes in "The Lottery"

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“The Lottery” is a story written by Shirley Jackson in 1948 and tells the story of a town that takes part in a barbaric ritual every year on June 27th. There are several themes in this short story. The main themes in “The Lottery” are our aversion to examine and challenge outdated ideas and rituals, that society will pick scapegoats to carry its wrongs and the horrors in following the crowd.

The townspeople in “The Lottery” blindly go along with an appalling custom having lost the reason behind it long ago. The box used for the raffle tickets is not even the same box. It had been replaced so long ago that it is thought – not known - that the box used now contains some of the wood from the original box. It is shabby and worn out, just as this lottery is. Paper now replaces the wood chips originally used. Indeed, most of the ritual has now been forgotten, lost along with the reasons behind this ghastly custom. There was supposedly a song that is no longer remembered. There was supposedly a salute given to each person drawing from the lottery box; however, that, too was long forgotten. Some say that the facilitator of the lottery was supposed to stand and give a prewritten speech, while still Bryson 2

others say that the facilitator was to walk among the crowd (pgs. 188, 189). The townspeople are just going along with the lottery because it has always been done.
Our own aversion to examine and challenge the outdated ideas and rituals can be seen with several things. For example, the words “All men are created equal” kept women from the right to vote until the 1920s. Even today, there are ethical questions to wrestle with in our own society – euthanasia and abortion, just to name a few. We must examine the facts for ourselves and make up our own mind so we can fight for what we see as ethical and moral as opposed to stating that it is easier to bury our heads in the sand and not ask the difficult questions to ourselves.

Old Man Warner states...
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