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Short Fiction Essay - the Lottery

By stayjones Dec 11, 2012 1108 Words
Stacey Jones
Short fiction paper
11/06/12

Shirley Jackson “The Lottery”

Shirley Jackson’s “The Lottery” is a chilling tale of a small town whose people had to participate in a lottery each year. The first onset of this reading depictures a story of hope. The first few paragraphs shows truth in what you would think is going to be a heartfelt happy story; it was clear and sunny, with the fresh warmth of a full summer day; the flowers were blossoming profusely and the grass was richly green. The title alone makes the readers think that this is going to be a cheerful story. Soon the reader finds out that this isn’t the type of lottery that one may wish to win. Jackson tells a story descriptive through her characters, known in the story as “the villagers”. These villagers have lived on generation after generation accustomed to the lottery and what they believe is good for their town. Although the reader does not know what the “prize” of the lottery is until the end, we do know the village comes together each year to participate in this horrid tradition of “winning” the lottery only to be stoned to death by family and peers. As the story unfolds it shows how people in a threatened society can turn against each other even if they are family members.

Jackson set the mood at first, as stated, that it was a happy occasion. “they tended to gather quietly for a while before they broke into boisterous play”. Then as the men began to gather the story talks of them “surveying their own children, “speaking of “planting and rain, tractors and taxes” as if everything is perfect and nothing to fear. Also how the lottery was conducted “as were the square dances, the teen club, and the Halloween programs”. It wasn’t long into the story that you may wonder what kind of lottery this may be. The talk of children gathering stones into piles and some guarding them gave you the first mind set in wondering what exactly are they doing and what is the lottery truly about.

The narrator of the story goes on in being descriptive about the traditions of the lottery starting with the black box that holds the names of everyone in the town. From this box everyone that is head of household is to draw a name and whoever has the black mark is claimed to be the “winner”. The black box is worn and as old as the tradition itself but continues to make its way back every year even though there was discussion of getting a new one. The black box was one thing that stood its ground through many years of the lottery. However, there were a few things that they let go, such as a recital and specific solutes that were given to each person that came to draw a name. These specific traditions seemed to be able to slip through the cracks. Surprisingly these are a few of the things that over time people didn’t care disappeared however the gruesome act itself was not part of the disappearing. For the most part the rituals and they main event seem to hold and that is the way it was going to stay.

It is unsure who the main character of this story is. Tessie Hutchinson is the only one that arrives late to the lottery. This is one day that everyone is aware of and all come on time. The village seems to give her a hard time and makes fun of her as she makes her way through the crowd to her family. They couldn’t believe she could have forgotten such an important day. She is also the only one that protests the lottery. After the drawing is over it is her husband that is declared the “winner” and Tessie starts to declare the lotteries unfairness. She stated he wasn’t given enough time. Her husband turns to tell Tessie to “shut up” as he didn’t care to hear her rant. Old man Warner is the oldest man in town and has seen seventy-seven lotteries. He is determined to keep the lottery and the traditions as is. Old Man Warner is definitely set in his ways and fears change would be bad. Mr. Adams, a villager, stated to Old Man Warner “They do say that over in the north village they’re talking of giving up the lottery”. Old Man Warner said, “crazy fools” “nothing but trouble in that,” “packs of young fools.” So as you can see this tradition wasn’t going anywhere based on how they felt about it. Then you have Mr. Summers who seems to hold power over the village. It isn’t clear as to how Mr. Summers gained the power and became ruler of the tradition of the lottery but nonetheless he is the leader. No one seemed to ever question his power. He is the one that creates the slips of paper and chooses which one will receive the black dot that will tell the fate of one more village person. He is also the one that draws the names for the lottery. The irony of the story is not only the fact that the village and the townspeople in it seem like basic normal happy people living a normal happy life but each year they perform a random act of senseless murder, but also how Tessie ends up getting her own name after a second pulling of the names by her family. It was her that declared the unfairness and only her that seemed to want the lottery to end. In the end, the village is following a tradition of being stoned and taking it in young or old since it’s the way it has been done for years. It is a good example of how traditions are set and how accustomed people come to them. The reading does not give a clear descriptive reason behind why the lottery is done other than the traditional back ground of it. Whether it be superstitious or just wrong not to follow what they have always known was frightening to them as a society. We as a society have tons of traditions and for the most part we relate traditions to happy times. This story was a shocker in that its title meant something different that we know as being a lottery. As it unfolded a different type of tradition began to tell a story of what we would only think of as extraordinarily bizarre.

Work Cited
http://en.wikipedia.org
Short Story by Shirley Jackson
www.americanliterature.com

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