January 30, 2014
The Traditions They Follow
Why do some societies follow traditions that have pointless rules? “The Lottery” is a short story written by Shirley Jackson that asks the same question. The narrator presents a small-town where a traditional lottery is held annually every summer on June 27th. The town’s people get together for a lottery (1). The reward is unknown at the beginning to reader, but increasingly becomes more apparent as the story continues to its climax. The reward is a sadistic random tradition in the form of murder by stoning. The killing, which is the purpose of the lottery, is foreshadowed at the beginning of the story when children pick up stones (1). How the lottery works is that each citizen by family has to pick a piece of paper from a black box. One of the papers is marked with a black spot. Whoever obtains this fated black spot is brutally murdered by all other citizens in the community with stones (6). One theme that Jackson presents in “The Lottery” is the consequences of following traditions or rules without questioning their purpose. This theme can be seen by the use of symbols throughout the story. The different elements that symbolize this theme are represented in the characters, the black box, and the the lottery itself.
One of the symbols that Jackson uses throughout the story are through the characters. These characters represent individuals in a society who blindly follow without question the standards of their traditions as well as those who rebel and question tradition. The character that symbolizes superstition and blind faith in traditions is represented in Old Man Warner. Warner grudgingly says to another character Mr Adams when he talk about other towns stopping the lottery, “Next thing you know, they’ll be wanting to go back to living caves, nobody works anymore, live that way for a while”. The statement shows his obvious bias to changing the tradition and...
Cited: Jackson, Shirley. “The Lottery.” The Lottery and Other Stories. New York: Farrar, 1991. 291-302.
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