of Human Services
Communications Skills 2
By Bobby Sampson
The Lottery by Shirley Jackson is the story of a village following a tradition that results in the sacrifice of one citizen each year by stoning. The author Shirley Jackson shows the reader how following the unknown may result into sorrowful actions if one is too apprehensive to ask questions. Although the villagers do not know why they follow the tradition they willingly participate until they become the victim. Shirley Jackson provides a story full of brutal undertones about a village that performs human sacrifice and blind fellowship that is similar to the mentality of racism. While reading The Lottery the story has a brutal undertone that is evident in the atmosphere and the personality of the characters in the story. From the opening Shirley Jackson describes a peaceful setting but it is full of tension. The first example that something is discomfiting is the children’s attitude when they are dismissed from school, “the feeling of liberty sat uneasily on most of them” (Jackson, 1948). Jackson sets up an ideal summer day, but as her descriptions become more in depth the young boy’s actions also show signs of a slow shift in the atmosphere. Bobby Martin had already stuffed his pockets full of stones, and the other boys soon followed his example, selecting the smoothest and roundest stones (Jackson, 1948). The personalities of the characters change from being peaceful and friendly to antagonistic. When Tessie the main character of the story finally arrives to participate in “The Lottery” she partakes in light banter with Mrs. Delacroix. Tessie jokes with Mr. Summers about her tardiness which shows friendship amongst the villagers, until it is revealed Tessie’s husband picked the ticket that will decide the fate for a member of their family. From her husband telling her to shut up when she complains about him picking the ticket, to her friends Mrs. Delacroix and Mrs. Graves stating she sound is a good sport as she protests for her life it is clear that the atmosphere has shifted completely. When Mrs. Delacroix runs and picks up the biggest rock to kill her friend its clear the brutality is instilled in the villagers from years of tradition. From the overall attitude towards the actual tradition it is evident that the blind fellowship has become imbedded in the mind of the villagers. Although the villagers follow the tradition Jackson gives proof that they fear the ritual. Symbols such as the black box they pick names from and the attitude towards the box show apprehension. The box never stays in the same place for an extended period of time nor do people keep it in their homes. It is as if the villagers view the box as an omen or some sort of bad luck. The box was put way, sometimes one place, sometimes another; it had spent one year in Mr. Graves's barn and another year underfoot in the post office and sometimes it was set on a shelf in the Martin grocery and left there (Jackson, 1948). The villagers also have little knowledge of rituals that were a part of the ceremony in the beginning showing further evidence of blind fellowship. At one time, some people remembered, there had been a recital of some sort, performed by the official of the lottery, a perfunctory. tuneless chant that had been rattled off duly each year; some people believed that the official of the lottery used to stand just so when he said or sang it, others believed that he was supposed to walk among the people, but years and years ago this part of the ritual had been allowed to lapse (Jackson, 1948 pg #2). Even though they fear the tradition since it is passed from generation to generation they continue to follow until like Tessie they become the victim. In The Lottery the mentality of the villagers is similar to the mentality that is associated with racism. Adults teach children hate and the cycle continues although racist know little about why they hate a group. Jackson gives an example in the end with Tessie’s little boy Davy that like racism certain acts are taught and developed from a young age. The children had stones already. And someone gave little Davy Hutchinson few pebbles (Jackson, 1948). Little Davy did not realize he was participating in killing his mother, but since he was given the pebbles and was raised in that environment the tradition is able to continue with his generation. Racism can be taught from individuals around and also learned from the environment. Shirley Jackson’s story shows the villagers teaching the children and also encouraging their participation in the act. A tall boy in the crowd raised his hand. "Here," he said. "I'm drawing for my mother and me." He blinked his eyes nervously and ducked his head as several voices in the crowd said things like "Good fellow, lack." and "Glad to see your mother's got a man to do it." (Jackson, 1948). The similarities to racism and The Lottery are inherited brutality and unquestioning fellowship that can only be changed by the adults in the community. The Lottery is a short story that demonstrates how barbaric a group can be when they follow unreasonable traditions and beliefs without understanding why. Shirley Jackon’s description of the characters fellowship is similar to how racist blindly follow views that have been inherited from generations before them. The underlying brutality is another factor that is similar to the world today; people are willing to forget their morals when it comes to ingrained ideals. The Lottery has many factors that tie into the way the people are today.
* Jackson, S. (1948). “The Lottery” The New Yorker. 1-7