The Lottery Analysis
Human beings are ruled by traditions and rituals. People tend to follow the same pattern of doing their everyday things, it is a ritual. Every culture has rituals that are followed blindly, it is so ingrained in tradition that people don’t question them.
The Lottery, by Shirley Jackson is a story of how the people of a village follow the same ritual every year without questioning it. Jackson’s style of writing The Lottery allows the reader to believe in a positive outcome but as the story progresses the names of the families, the pieces of paper, the black box, and the lottery begin to take on their true meaning. Jackson uses family names, pieces of paper, the black box, and the lottery as symbols for the people, the village, and the traditions that mankind create and refuses to let go of even though these traditions are morally wrong and reprehensible. She uses these symbols to create situational irony in the story.
Jackson uses specific names for the families, Graves, Summers, Delacroix, and Old Man Warner, in particular, take on new meanings by the end of the story. Grave is associated with death and in the story, Mr. Graves is the person with the most power in the village, he is the postmaster, he is the one that swears in Mr. Summers as the official of the lottery. Summer is warmth and life, however, it is ironic that it is Mr, Summers who officiates the lottery and performs the ritual every year. He is responsible for the continuation of the lottery.The night before the lottery, Mr. Summers and Mr. Graves made up the slips of paper and put them in the box, (Jackson 337) Life and Death working together to continue the ritual of the lottery. Jackson uses the name Delacroix, which means of the cross, to signify that this is the village’s cross to bear if they want a good harvest. Old Man Warner is a warning. He warns the people of the village about the dangers of giving up the ritual and why it needs to continue.
The pieces of paper used and the black spot in the chosen one symbolizes the people of the village. The head of every family, the decision maker, the person who is supposed to protect the family agrees to take part in this ritual by taking a piece of paper from the black box. The black spot can be in any one of the pieces of paper. Even when knowing that a person of their family will be stoned to death, the head of the family still takes part in this ritual. Jackson states and he dropped all the papers but those onto the ground, where the breeze caught them and lifted them off. (Jackson 341) The pieces of paper signify how the people of the village are easily discarded and how the heads of the family and family members can easily detach themselves from those they hold dear. No one is exempt from participating even the children take part in the lottery.
The black box is a symbol of death, it is what is used by the people of the village to determine the ultimate fate of a person. The black box was treated with apprehension and one might say dread. No one wants to touch the box other than Mr. Summers and Mr. Graves. The black box was put away, sometimes one place, sometimes another; it had spent a year in Mr. Grave’s barn and another year underfoot in the post office, and sometimes it was set on a shelf in the Martin grocery and left there (Jackson, 337), the black box symbolizes a coffin. A barn is usually cold, dark and used to store things that are usually forgotten and are not important. The black box is also stored underfoot in the post office where Mr. Graves is the Postmaster. Jackson is revealing that the winner of the lottery will be buried in a coffin deep in the ground in a grave. The black box was made with pieces of the box that had preceded it, the one that had been constructed when the first people settled down to make a village here, Mrs. 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 (Jackson 337). Even though many rituals are old and the true meaning behind them are lost, people will continue to perform them because they are traditions. The beliefs and customs are so ingrained in the people that they see no other way of doing things.
The lottery symbolizes the traditions of the village. The ritual of the lottery is done every year on the same day because it is a tradition. Despite the fact that The original paraphernalia for the lottery had been lost long ago, (Jackson 337) the tradition continues. The people are so used to performing the ritual of the lottery that even though they have lost the tools used and probably forgotten the real reason the lottery was performed they continue to practice it every year. The lottery is such an important tradition for the people of the village that they ignore the fact that every year one them will win the lottery. One of them will be stoned to death.
Jackson uses the names of the villagers, pieces of paper, the black box and the lottery, as t symbols to create situational irony. The reader is unaware of the true meaning of the lottery until the end. While many people see the prospect of winning the lottery as a positive life-changing event, the people in this village view it as a necessity. Old Man Warner even says Lottery in June, Corn be heavy soon. The tradition of the lottery is viewed as a necessity in order for the crops, the people and the village to prosper. Even when it is questioned, those questions are silenced by older members of the village who think that it is wrong to stop these traditions. It is important to question traditions when these traditions hurt and in this case kill people.
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