Dr. Wilfred Robles
05 October 2013
Human Disconnect from Tragedy: An Interpretation
Of the Theme in “The Lottery” by Shirley Jackson
“The Lottery” by Shirley Jackson is a story of an anticipated yearly event where the all the citizens of a small town gather together to participate in. The author gives the impression through the light-hearted dialogue among the characters the lottery leads to an event bringing its winner good fortune. As the fortune of the one chosen by the lottery drawing is revealed, it also shows a potential problem of the human character. “The Lottery” reveals when exposed to violence routinely people can become desensitized to the outcomes of such acts.
Throughout the story the narrator through the dialogue of the characters tells the lottery is an annual event that has gone on longer than the oldest person can remember. Since the lottery has been conducted for so long the oldest to the youngest alike gather to anticipate it. As the people gather, the narrator describes how the townspeople interact routinely with young children playing together, Men talking about farming and taxes, and women gossiping about things. The narrator describes what seems to be an innocent act of young boys gathering stones, “Bobby Martin had already stuffed his pocket full of stones, and the others soon followed his example, selecting the smoothest and roundest stones; Bobby and Harry Jones and Dickie Delacroix…eventually made a great pile of stones in one corner of the square…”(903), but the stones become a symbol to the tragic conclusion of the story. After everyone reaches the place where the lottery is conducted they gather into families to await Mr. Summers, who oversees the lottery as well as other civic events in the town.
Once Mr. Summers and the townspeople are gathered, the narrator goes on to describe the tradition of the black box used to conduct the lottery and the rituals of how the lottery was to be conducted. The procedures of how the officiator of the lottery conducted the drawing had changed over the years from more formal to less formal, and more personal. The act that Mr. Summers takes to talk to each person casually that draws from the black box knowing what would happen to the person drawn is indicative of the attitude of all the townspeople. After the narrator leaves off from the history of the lottery the character that is drawn in the lottery, Tessie Hutchinson, enters the story. Ms. Hutchinson enters while a roll call of all the citizens of the town is taking place to make sure everyone has a chance to be drawn.
When Mr. Summers is ready to conduct the lottery the narrator once again reiterates how the people had grown accustom to the proceedings, “The people had done it so many times that they only half listened to the directions, most of them were quiet, wetting their lips, not looking around” (905). In the previous quote, the author reveals part of the theme she is trying to express on how people emotionally detach themselves when they have experienced something enough. While the drawing is taking place the narrator describes the dialogue between the characters of Old Man Warner, the oldest man in town, and a fellow citizen Mr. Adams. In the dialogue between the two men the narrator relates how something that is tradition can be hard to give up: “They do say,” Mr. Adams said to Old Man Warner, who stood next to him, “that over in the north village they’re talking of giving up the lottery.” Old Man Warner snorted, “Pack of crazy fools,” he said. “Listening to the young folks,
nothing’s good enough for them. Next thing you know, they’ll be wanting to go back to
living in caves, nobody work anymore, live that way for a while. Used to be a saying
about ‘Lottery in June, corn be heavy soon.’ There’s always been a lottery,” he added
petulantly. “Bad enough to see young Joe Summers up there joking with everybody.”
“Some places have already quit...
Cited: Jackson, Shirley. “The Lottery.” Literature for Life. Ed. X. J. Kennedy, Dana Gioia, and Nina Revoyr. New York: Pearson, 2013. 903-908. Print.
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