Lottery Tradition

Topics: Shirley Jackson, Dark Shadows, Tradition Pages: 2 (1180 words) Published: December 10, 2014
Lottery - Tradition
Tradition is endemic to small towns, a way to link families and generations. Jackson, however, pokes holes in the reverence that people have for tradition. She writes that the villagers don’t really know much about the lottery’s origin but try to preserve the tradition nevertheless. The villagers’ blind acceptance of the lottery has allowed ritual murder to become part of their town fabric. As they have demonstrated, they feel powerless to change—or even try to change—anything, although there is no one forcing them to keep things the same. Old Man Warner is so faithful to the tradition that he fears the villagers will return to primitive times if they stop holding the lottery. These ordinary people, who have just come from work or from their homes and will soon return home for lunch, easily kill someone when they are told to. And they don’t have a reason for doing it other than the fact that they’ve always held a lottery to kill someone. If the villagers stopped to question it, they would be forced to ask themselves why they are committing a murder—but no one stops to question. For them, the fact that this is tradition is reason enough and gives them all the justification they need. Old Man Warner

Old Man Warner, the oldest man in town, has participated in seventy-seven lotteries and is a staunch advocate for keeping things exactly the way they are. He dismisses the towns and young people who have stopped having lotteries as “crazy fools,” and he is threatened by the idea of change. He believes, illogically, that the people who want to stop holding lotteries will soon want to live in caves, as though only the lottery keeps society stable. He also holds fast to what seems to be an old wives’ tale—“Lottery in June, corn be heavy soon”—and fears that if the lottery stops, the villagers will be forced to eat “chickweed and acorns.” Again, this idea suggests that stopping the lottery will lead to a return to a much earlier era, when people...
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