Untraditional Traditions: an Analysis of Shirley Jackson’s “the Lottery”

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In the short story “The Lottery”, Shirley Jackson uses imagery and setting, symbolism and irony to advance the theme that antiquated traditions may lead ordinary people to commit thoughtless and callous actions.

Jackson uses imagery and setting to set the mood of normalcy in the village. She describes the morning of June 27th as a clear and sunny morning, blossoming flowers and richly green grass (237). Children ran and played with the feeling of liberty as school was recently over for the summer (237). The men began to gather, discussing everything from planting to rain and everything in between (237). The women soon followed and stood behind their husbands (237). An ordinary setting, providing no insight to the reader that one of the townspeople was to die that day.

Another significant element of writing that Jackson uses is symbolism. In “The Lottery”, the black box is used as a symbol of an old-fashioned tradition. Jackson writes, “The original paraphernalia for the lottery had been lost long ago, and the black box now resting on the stool had been put into use even before Old Man Warner, the oldest man in town, was born” (238). The official of the lottery, Mr. Summers, had many times suggested about a new box, each time the subject was allowed to fade off without anything’s being done (238). The black box was old and began splintering along one side to show its original color, many places showed stains and fades. This black box symbolizes the out-dated tradition; the fading color symbolizes wickedness and spite and the splintering along one side represents each life it has taken.

Irony is a vital element of writing that Jackson uses to create astonishment at the end of “The Lottery”. Mrs. Tessie Hutchinson was the last of the townspeople to make it to the square. “’Clean forgot what day it was,’” Mrs. Hutchinson said to Mrs. Delacroix as they both laughed softly (239). Mrs. Delacroix told her she made in time and Tessie...
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