The Lottery Essay

Topics: Short story, The Lottery, Human Pages: 6 (2273 words) Published: August 30, 2013
Inborn Evil and Weakness of Mankind Displayed in “The Lottery” “It may be that we are puppets-puppets controlled by the strings of society. But at least we are puppets with perception, with awareness, and perhaps our awareness is the first step to our liberation.” This insightful quote was once said by Psychologist Stanley Milgram who received his PhD in Psychology at the age of 28 (Blass 69). In the short story “The Lottery”, a fictional tale written by Shirley Jackson in 1948, a close community is described with their strict traditions. “The Lottery” includes many of the qualities from Jackson’s other stories such as a female protagonist, an unknown setting, irony, and a human problem (Parks 321). Readers are misguided with Jackson’s use of irony to believe that the townspeople are going to win some form of prize in this lottery. However, the audience discovers that the winner of the lottery does not win a prize at all. The community has their own opinions on the customs that have been around for over seventy-seven years, but none are willing to make a change. Also, many symbols are found throughout the story including the society in relation to our society today. “The Lottery” by Shirley Jackson ironically describes mankind’s inborn sense of evil and weakness that has been around since the beginning of time. Jackson uses ironic language throughout her short story. The biggest display of irony can be seen first and foremost in the title. The title does not bring about fear, danger, or evil for readers. Most people believe a lottery to be a chance to win a prize such as money and think positively about it. Also, descriptions of the town such as the “fresh warmth,” blooming flowers, green grass, and the clear and sunny “June 27th” are some examples of Jackson’s figurative language. These are examples of background information and setting details readers receive from Jackson. These descriptions would lead most people to believe that the story is a cheerful and warm hearted tale, which “The Lottery” turns out to be the exact opposite. As stated by Patrick Shields, “This setting, however, conveys an atmosphere which is deceptive since this pleasant summer gathering will sharply change and eventually lead to ritual murder. Jackson uses this atmosphere to increase the irony of the story” (413). Jackson’s cheerful tone can also be seen in the presentation of the characters. For example, the children released from school, were gathering stones and “broke into boisterous play.” Doesn’t flow write. Think you need a comma between children and released. This is a common action for children coming from school in present times as well as years ago. The men then gathered, discussing work, while the women exchanged bits of gossip. Jackson presents the characters in common, well known situations, performing friendly actions on an ordinary day. Irony can also be seen in the way Jackson describes “The Lottery” itself. She compares it to the town square dances, teen club, and the Halloween program. These comparisons create a vision for the readers that “The Lottery” is an exciting activity in which a prize is to be won. Each of the compared occasions occurs annually in the society just as the lottery is performed each year. It is not until the end of the story that the audience discovers the true conclusion of the town lottery. Evil is presented by Jackson through the characters and town traditions. The lottery in itself was said by Old Man Warner to have been around for over seventy-seven years. Henceforth, the custom has been around for longer than most of the town members. Until the end, readers were not given any reason to believe the winner of the lottery would be killed, injured, or have any negative association. However, as the crowd closes in with their stones, readers know the horrific ending. Every person participates in the lottery, and in the moments where the crowd is about to throw the stones, no one seems to...

Cited: Blass, Thomas. "The Man Who Shocked the World." Psychology Today 35.2 (2002): 68-74.
Coulthard, A. R. "Jackson 's THE LOTTERY." Explicator 48.3 (1990): 226-28. Print
Davis, Stephen F., and Joseph J. Palladino. Psychology. 6th ed. Pearson, 2010. Print.
Jackson, Shirley. "The Lottery"  University of Minnesota Duluth: Web , 23 Jun. 2012. Print
Parks, John G. "The Possibility of Evil: A Key to Shirley Jackson 's Fiction." Studies in Short
Fiction 15.3 (1978): 321. Print.
Shields, Patrick J. "Arbitrary Condemnation and Sanctioned Violence in Shirley Jackson’s “the
Lottery”." Contemporary Justice Review 7.4 (2004): 411-19. Print.
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