Literary Analysis of Shirley Jackson’s: “The Lottery”
English 1320-Section 15
Dr. J. Drummond
April 2 , 2015
Thesis Statement: People will often unquestionably follow tradition and the crowd without ever stopping to think about why they are doing what they are doing. I. Plot
A. Summer Time
B. Small Town
III. Theme of Story
A. Blind Tradition
B. Unquestioning Allegiance
IV. Is it not ironic?
A. Lottery equals death?
B. Think before you do
V. Be careful of blindly following the crowd.
“Literary Analysis of Shirley Jackon’s: “The Lottery”
The story of “The Lottery”, takes place in the town square of a village where the beauty of summer is on full display. Characters from all age groups are represented; from boisterous children to the easy going elderly participate in this story. The main characters of the story are: Mr. Summers, who conducts the lottery, Tessie Hutchinson, who is stoned at the end of the story, Old Man Warner, the oldest man in the village who condemns the progress of other villages, Bill Hutchinson, Tessie Hutchinson’s husband who goes with tradition at the expense of his wife, and Mr. Harry Graves, who is the postmaster who assists Mr. Harry Graves with conducting the lottery.
The hook of the story is how the story turns from the bright beautiful summer day in a small town to the ominous foreshadowing of the children gathering and hoarding stones in the town square.
The theme of this story is that people will often unquestionably follow tradition and the crowd without ever stopping to think about why they are doing what they are doing.
Considering several points can substantiate this thesis of the theme of the story. Tessie comes late to the lottery. When no one else in the entire village has forgotten what day it is, she has. Whether she truly forgot or not is debatable, yet it is obvious that this set her apart from the other villages, and often being different from the crowd is very dangerous. Her standing out in this way, and her being the only voice that continually questions the lottery threatens the majority of the crowd. Old Man Warner is a staunch advocate for maintaining the traditions of the lottery. Many of his fears are illogical, and this is often the case when individuals and a society hold onto traditions that have no meaning. Mr. Warner personifies the individual who believes that any deviation from the status quo will result in disaster. Mr. Summers is the epitome of a leader who has too much power. He not only conducts the ceremony of the lottery, Sanders 2
he also makes up the names of the slips of paper that go into the black box. The community follows his leadership unquestionably, and any time this is the case, abuse of power is surely forthcoming. Lastly, consider the black box. The townspeople are not even willing to make a new box. The superstitiously believe that this will prove catastrophic somehow for their families and village. It is easy for even the casual reader to see that blindly following tradition, no matter how long it has been in place, can be deadly.
Is it not ironic that the title of this short story is “The Lottery?” Think about it, when someone hears lottery, they think of winning something desirable. The thought does not cross ones mind that the winner of a lottery will be coldly stoned in town square by their neighbors and their own family. So the reader can see that irony is very effective in making one think about the true horror of this story and the story’s theme.
This is a great story to caution the reader against blindly following tradition and a collective mentality. While this may cause physical death, it can be deadly or harmful in many aspects of life and in society. Therefore, through “The Lottery”, the reader is taught a valuable...
Cited: Jackson, Shirley. "The Lottery." Middlebury.edu. 26 June 1948. Web. 2 Apr. 2015.
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