Could you take a hand in killing someone from your community, a neighbor, a friend? What if it was part of a sacred rite? What if it was for some greater good? This is precisely the moral dilemma posed by author Shirley Jackson in her famous short story, “The Lottery.” In the story, a village is required to cull one of its members. In a yearly tradition, everyone gathers to select one person by way of random lottery, and then they stone them to death. As barbaric as the sacrifice is, everyone seems to go through the ritual with an air of resolved finality. “The Lottery” examines the idea of what is required of a person in society, what that society considers to be good, and where the line between the two should be drawn.
Blood sacrifice has long been recorded as an essential part of cultures across the globe since the earliest civilizations. It can be an event of great celebration, or of great solemnity. It has been used to gain the favor of the gods, to bring good fortune, or, as in the case of “The Lottery,” to bring a good harvest. As Old Man Warner, the village elder, explains that there “used to be a saying about 'lottery in June, corn be heavy soon'” (27). The lottery is a long standing tradition, not only in the village, but in almost all of the surrounding villages as well (25). The locals view the lottery as a something that must be done, as a requirement. For them it always has been, and so they continue with it every year. The people in the story don't seem excited about having to off one of their own, but they don't shy away from it either. The occasion is met with an air of nervousness, but everyone feels the need to be pleasant, even cheerful with one another (25). Though some of the traditions surrounding the lottery have changed, “the villagers [have] forgotten the ritual and lost the original black box, they still remember to use stones.” This is the core of their ritual, and it allows for everyone to pitch in, even the small...
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