The Setting in "The Lottery"
The 77th Annual Sacrifice
When you think of striking gold in the lottery, you dream that you get lucky and win a tremendous amount of cash! However, The Lottery written by Shirley Jackson (Jackson) surprises the audience with a reverse effect because if you win; the rest of the village will stone you to death. In The Lottery, the author uses symbols to foreshadow and develop the setting that results in an ironic story that demonstrates her work.
One symbol of foreshadowing in the story is the character’s name Mr. Graves. This is ironic because winning the lottery and death doesn’t go together. For example, people who win the lottery ultimately lose their life. Thus, the symbol of Graves is an early introduction into the ironic story. Another symbol that is ironic is the Black Box. The story correlates the black box with a coffin which is a symbol used after people pass away. As for the setting, a person named Mr. Summers is introduced which represents the season of the story. The lottery takes place during the summer which represents an important event for the town. In The Lottery, the setting is ironic because the author contradicts the typical meaning of summer. With the introduction of Old Man Warner, the story gives us a glimpse of history and his role in the story as a symbol.
Old Man Warner is important in the story not only because he’s been in 77 lotteries throughout his whole life, it’s because he is a important symbol in the story introduced by the author. Old Man Warner is the oldest man in town and understands the towns traditions. Therefore, Old Man Warner represents the town at heart. The younger generations try there hardest to persuade Old Man Warner to trash the lottery because there’s no use. He believes if the lottery is retired as a tradition, as quoted; They’ll be wanting to go back to living in caves. (Jackson, p3). According to Old Man Warner, the lottery is the only event keeping our society stable; thus, gives us a glimpse how the town ended up this way. Old Man Warner doesn’t accept this theory and thinks they are crazy and quotes them as Pack of crazy fools (Jackson, p2) for wanting to stop the lottery. Due to his superstition, he thinks that human sacrifice is the logical answer for insuring that our crops are good, as referenced in the statement Lottery in June, corn be heavy soon. (Jackson, p3). Old Man Warner believes in the past traditions because he is against change which is common for the older generation. The other main symbol introduced is the Black Box. Unlike Old Man Warner, this black box represents the absence of tradition. This is because the physical box itself has never been passed down to other generations; rather, only the ideas and rituals that were passed through word of mouth. As of today, only pieces of the original black box remain and it’s a shell of itself. An example is in the beginning, the villagers used wood chips and now the black box is only made of paper. Over the years, the small details of the lottery have been lost in translation and all that remains is theories and memories. As a result, the villagers are blindly following a ritual that effectively been lost for the sake of tradition. Therefore, the town is only holding lotteries without any common goals and that is not meaningful. In The Lottery, the story also uses a theme to show irony, the book was portrayed as a happy environment with sunny days, but as we all can conclude the ending of the book is not as pleasant.
The theme of the story is people blindly following tradition without any reason is not positive and can be very dangerous. This is shown to the reader through the bizarre ritual of murdering innocent people just because of a tradition knowing its wrong. The town has become so immersed in this tradition that they fail to see the moral damage it is creating in their society and the future generations. Old Man Warner is a perfect reflection of this because from his point of view, there is no fault in following the tradition of stoning people after they win the lottery. He is very committed to his tradition and beliefs and that makes the story highly interesting. This is very ironic because the idea of human sacrifice to develop their crops is an inverted way of thinking. Old Man Warner does not question this tradition and undoubtedly will kill a human simply because the town’s tradition gives him an excuse and justification he needs. The black box adds to this theory because it’s symbolizes and hold those traditional values, but over time has declined in importance. The black box is falling apart from the passing of time and is only a shell of itself today. The villager beliefs and loyalty with the box is due to nothing more than historic stories. This proves that the villagers are blindly following tradition versus analyzing the impact of what is morally right versus wrong. In our current society, actions should be more carefully thought out because of the major consequences.
The setting in The Lottery is a very important symbol that gives the reader a sense of the season, first impressions, and an overall feeling of what the story’s plot. In the beginning, Jackson is very specific in describing the setting of her story. She says, The morning of June 27th was clear and sunny, with the fresh warmth of a full summer day (Jackson, page 1). After reading this quote, one would assume or visualize a happy time period in town. Also, most people would imagine this puts the reader in a place that seems very welcoming. It is the start of summer and people are normally excited as they prepare for relaxation and getting together for fun activities. On the contrary, this will prove misleading because Jackson initially gives her audience the sense of normalcy. However, this is not the scenario when the story later reveals that the town’s lottery traditions result negatively by being stoned to death. The mood of the story quickly changes once the reader realizes the actual theme. As one continues with the story, there is something very mysterious about this town that leaves the reader with many questions. For example, how did the town end up like this?
In conclusion, throughout the story the reader can clearly see how Jackson leverages the setting, foreshadowing, and symbols to create an ironic story. The setting in The Lottery being summer doesn’t equate to what most people feel normally occurs during that season. Jackson ultimately tricks the reader into thinking that the village people are normal and happy in the beginning only to reveal an opposite effect. As the reader progresses, one later finds out about the unusual lottery ritual details. This completely changes the mood and the reader’s feelings about the intended setting. There are two main symbols in this story, one being Old man Warner and the second being the Black Box. Both symbols give the reader a sense of tradition and the town’s roots. Jackson’s writing used reverse antics which leaves her audience with a great theme that results in an ironic story.
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