The Color Black in "The Lottery"

Topics: Black, Shirley Jackson, Short story Pages: 3 (938 words) Published: May 2, 2013
The Color Black and Symbolism in “The Lottery”
People are influenced by a variety of different sources – their parents, their friends, and their communities. While everyone must learn to make their own decisions, they often follow the beliefs of the people around them. Teenagers register to vote as a “Democrat” merely because their parents call themselves Democrats. Sometimes blindly following another’s influence can result in something much more severe, such as becoming a slave owner due to the influence of the surrounding society. Shirley Jackson’s story “The Lottery” uses the color black to symbolize how irrationally adhering to a tradition when its origin is neither remembered nor understood can result in people performing ignorant actions.

The Lottery is an age old practice for a small town that is conducted by a man named Mr. Summers. Unlike his cheery name suggests, Mr. Summers works in the coal industry and thus brings our first example of the color black in the story. Coal naturally rubs off its native color when it touches virtually anything with a shade so dark that the comparison “black as coal” is never questioned. Mr. Summers was in charge of ensuring that the tradition of holding a yearly lottery remained in place, no matter what the cost. Therefore his influence in the town aided the continuance of this practice although no one really understands its original purpose.

The next black symbol mentioned in “The Lottery” is the famed black box. This item is mentioned the most of any black item in the entire story, thus enhancing its importance. This box is a replacement of the original box that was lost many years ago. However, even the box that they now use is older than anyone in the village. Although the box is practically falling apart, Mr. Summers cannot gather support to have a new one made because the members of the town were afraid to tamper with tradition. Once again these poor people are blindly following the ways of the generations...
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