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Unjust Traditions of the Lottery by Shirley Jackson

By vmh1116 May 05, 2013 701 Words
Published in 1948, The Lottery, by Shirley Jackson has become well known by the tradition of

the village. Tradition plays a key role throughout the lives of the villagers. The title of this short

story “ The Lottery” may lead one to believe that something good is to come but later as you

read on, you will realize that this is not the case. By the unjust persecution of innocent

individuals, Shirley Jackson’s short story “The Lottery” portrays the dangers of blindly

following tradition.

The lottery is a traditional event that takes place annually on June 27. The whole village

gathers at the square for the drawing of the lottery starting with the children and ending with the

adults. In some towns this event would be started a day earlier because of the large population of

people. But in this village there was an estimated three hundred population taking less than two

hours. The description of the lottery taking “ less than two hours” may cause the reader to be

uncertain about what the meaning of the lottery really is. This statement inclines one to think that

this isn’t a blissful occasion taking place by the mood of the description. (Tibbett)
Mr. Summers, the head of most events in the village including the lottery, gathers information

on the households the night before and makes a list for the next day. Papers are assorted into the

black box, which indicates an outdated tradition, suggested by this sentence: "The black box

grew shabbier each year: by now it was no longer completely black but splintered badly along

one side to show the original wood color, and in some places faded or stained." (Jackson)

This is an example of how tradition hasn’t changed over the years. But there is talk about

previous traditions that have been forgotten, such as the ritual salute, which was used to address

the person who came up for the drawing.

There are people who agree and disagree with this annual event. The older folk in the town 2

are familiarized with this event so it is easier for them to fathom. The younger population in the

town are the ones who disagree. There are people that will and will not get adapted to someone

dying each year in their town. I can understand how people are upset with this tradition. It is not

a ritual I would want my town to be known for. It is hard for people to grow into a tradition like

this with such a dramatic outcome. For instance, the Hutchinson family has a difficultly adapting

to the ritual of the lottery especially Mrs. Hutchinson. When her husband picks out the paper

with the black dot on it, she claims that he didn’t have enough time to pick and he couldn’t

concentrate. I feel if it was any other family she wouldn’t have a problem, but since it’s her own

she claims that it’s unfair. It appears that the town can’t even recall when this originated nor

guess when it will end. I find it so mind boggling that people can’t think for themselves and

don’t rebel against persecuting innocent people that they’re even friends with.

Tessie’s death is an example of how societies can persecute people for absurd reasons.

Present day parallels are easy to draw, because all prejudices, whether they are based on race,

sex, appearance, or sexual orientation, are essentially random. (SparkNotes Editors) Those who

are victimized are pinned because of their certain characteristics that they cannot change. This

day and age discrimination is a major problem. Just like in The Lottery blindly following

tradition concludes in the stoning of Tessie who is completely innocent but just didn’t have a

lucky drawing. The villagers don’t understand why they’re stoning her but they just do it because

that’s what they’re expected to do and they don’t know anything different. People often

persecute others for no reason and call each other out on characteristics that sometimes aren’t

able to be corrected but they don’t realize why they do it. The Lottery is a striking piece of work

3

with immense tension and controversy that portrays the following of tradition without realizing

the reasoning behind it.

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