The Ritual of “The Lottery”
It is often said that there is strength in numbers. While it is true that a large group of people has more power than an individual, a single person within a large group will almost always conform in some way. This weakens the individual and leads to fewer new ideas in order to maintain group status and agreement. Many times, rituals or ideas are allowed and accepted just because they are favored by a majority or have been part of that society for so long that they have become almost like a tradition. In "The Lottery", Shirley Jackson uses alarming images to guide the reader to understand the futility and foolishness of blind obedience to these rituals. The lottery “selection” emphasizes the importance of questioning what is right in front of you instead of just conforming mindlessly.
The story begins with the children gathering in town square. They are laughing, playing, and having fun doing things other children do. Some are gathering stones from the surrounding area and building a pile. Soon the men and women arrive, bringing with them a much less cheerful disposition. The adults make small talk, laughing quietly with each other while maintaining a slight solemnity. Jackson uses foreshadowing early in the story by mentioning the stones and how the older villagers distance themselves from it. "They stood together, away from the pile of stones in the corner, and their jokes were quiet and they smiled rather than laughed" (pg. 562, lines 20-21). Something is not quite right about this atmosphere. Suspicions are confirmed at the end of the story when we learn that this assemblage is a morbid and perverse ritual in which people draw slips from an old box to select a neighbor in the village. This person then becomes a scapegoat and he or she is stoned to death to guarantee a profitable year ahead.
There are indications throughout the story that some people are starting to think that the tradition is not really so rational and...
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