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The Lottery as an Allegory

Oct 08, 1999 593 Words
Jackson’s "The Lottery"
as an Allegory

Shirley Jackson’s "The Lottery" is an excellent example of an allegorical short story. In this story, the reader learns of a town’s "lottery" that takes place once a year, every year. It has been a tradition in this small rural town for many years and the villagers never question these activities, they just blindly go along with it. But what the reader doesn’t know is just what kind of prize the winner is going to obtain. Jackson’s use of symbolism is shown through the description of the characters, significant objects, and the actions in the story. These elements are used to represent the death that is associated with the lottery. The first allegorical use is seen through the description of the characters. Everything about them is symbolic. For example the names of the characters suggest a certain meaning. Mr. Summer’s name suggests that he has become a man of leisure through his wealth. Also Mr. Graves’ name is simply a foreshadow of the grave situation to come. The "victim" of the story, Tessie Hutchinson, rebels against the lottery by screaming at the end of the story, "It isn’t fair, it isn’t right." (238) The name Tessie can be associated with the word testy or tizzy. Which means someone who is in an angry or rebellious state. The name Warner can be seen as a literal warning against ceasing the tradition of the lottery. "Lottery in June, corn be heavy soon." (236) Mr. Warner says this after Mr. Adams speaks of a neighboring village who has given up the lottery. The objects depicted in the story are another good representation of the death associated with the lottery. All of the blackness makes the reader think of death and evil. The family which draws the black dot on the paper is the family marked for death. The slips of paper are held in a black box which signifies the horrible outcome. Everything that is terrible and evil is shown through the color black. If someone gets the color black, then they are going to die. "It’s Hutchinson. It’s Bill." (236) Everyone in the village knows what’s to come for the Hutchinson family. The actions involved with the lottery are symbolic also. At the beginning of the story the reader learns that the children are gathering stones into a big pile. This represents just how unconscious their actions are. The village is blind to it’s own motives. Tessie was fine with the lottery until it was she who was the chosen one. Tessie becomes the scapegoat for the village. She is a symbol of disobedience and the other villagers must stone her to death to stop further outbreaks of rebellion against the lottery. They are unable to articulate their rebellion because the massive force of ideology stands in their way. "Although the villagers had forgotten the ritual and lost the original black box, they still remembered to use stones." (238) The tradition is so old that all they care about is stoning the victim without thinking about how evil the tradition really is. "The Lottery" is very allegorical in every sense. After reading this short story the reader is forced to think about traditions and the inhuman quality of the village. Death is represented over and over again throughout the story. Jackson’s effective use of symbolism helps depict death in every way.

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