English 151L Section 70
17 February 2014
Traditions Stick Around
Tradition is often defined as “the handing down of statements, beliefs, legends, customs, and information from generation to generation, especially by word of mouth or by practice” (Tradition). A tradition is often unquestioned and undebated so they can be as strange as possible. In the rare case that someone would give their obscure opinion of the tradition, they are most likely ridiculed by their peers. This is the case of the tradition in Shirley Jackson’s short story, “The Lottery.” The story is in an unknown small town and every year the townspeople gather in the town square to play the lottery. The head of the household, usually the father, is required to draw a piece of paper from a black box that is placed in the middle of the square. Whoever draws the paper with a black mark on it, they have to have each member of his or her family draw again and the family member who draws the piece of paper with the black mark on it will be stoned to death in the middle of the center. Something that is important about the tradition in “The Lottery” is somewhat of a mystery. No one knows when it started and no one can guess when it will end. The original tradition of the lottery has been lost over the years and the black box is seemed to have been broken down and the new black box is made out of some pieces of the broken old box. The lack of history in this tradition is what makes it so powerful. The townspeople from the village continue with the lottery annually because they have basically done the tradition since they have been living there so why stop now. Old Man Warner is the oldest man living in the town, but he talks down about the other towns that have given up on the lottery tradition. He says that their saying was “Lottery in June, corn be heavy soon” (262). The saying means that the tradition holds some sort of good luck for a good farming season. Basing traditions off of a superstition is common in religious or small places such as this village that Mrs. Jackson describes in her short story (Nicole D). Mr. Adams, one of the townsmen, states that the northern villages have talked briefly about giving up the lottery. Old Man Warner calls those villages a “pack of crazy fools” (262). He states that there has always been a lottery and by those villages giving up on it will get them “nothing but trouble” (262). Even though traditions can be good in many ways, the reason behind the tradition may have got lost throughout the passing down of generations. The reason that the tradition may be alive still is just for the sake of keeping a tradition alive. Other villages give up the tradition altogether but this village does not state that they really know why the tradition is continued only that it has been around for some time so it must be continued. “The original paraphernalia for the lottery had been lost long ago,…Mr. Summers spoke frequently to the villagers about making a new box, but no one liked to upset even as much tradition as was represented by the black box…Because so much of the ritual had been forgotten or discarded, Mr. Summers had been successful in having slips of paper submitted for the chips of wood that had been used for generations” (259-260). When exploring the different traditions that people have that nobody ever seems to question, a person may start to realize how dangerous some of these traditions may be. For example, Muslims in the western Indian town of Solapur line up to drop their babies off of a 15 meter tower in a shrine, catching them in white sheets. “The ritual, which has taken place for more than half a millennium, is believed to make the children grow up healthy and strong.” The understanding that the population uses to justify this dangerous tradition is that this tradition doesn’t far from the lullaby Rock-a-bye Baby. Another example would be buying a Christmas tree. Now a day,...
References: Gioia, Dana, and X. J. Kennedy. "The Lottery." 2008. Backpack Literature: An Introduction to Fiction, Poetry, and Drama. Vol. 4. New York, NY: Pearson/Longman, 2006. 258-65. Print.
"Menu." Toptenz.net. N.p., 04 Aug. 2009. Web. 15 Feb. 2014. .
D, Nicole. "Shirley Jackson 's The Lottery and Its Relation to Tradition." Yahoo Contributor Network. N.p., 28 Aug. 2009. Web. 16 Feb. 2014. .
"Tradition." Dictionary.com. Dictionary.com, n.d. Web. 15 Feb. 2014. .
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