Maintained by the students of From Utopia to Dystopia course at Brooklyn College
Saturday, March 26, 2016
Response to The Lottery
“The Lottery” does not present a utopia nor does it present a dystopia. It is just a future community such as the one we live in. Though it does not represent anything but a regular society, it does have aspects of a dystopian society. It promotes stability and civility at the expense of stoning one to death yearly. This idea is mirrored in more recent dystopian works such as The Purge. Also in this work, there are dystopic features like the unwavering following of tradition. The citizens of this community blindly follow through with the lottery without questioning why they are doing it. It is not until they are being the one killed that they begin to question the tradition- but by then it is too late.
In our society, we have many traditions that we follow just because, well, they are traditions. Some examples of these traditions is a bride wearing white on her wedding day to show her purity, celebrating Columbus as the first person to “find” America or waiting to see if a groundhog saw his shadow to see what the next six week’s temperatures will be like. These traditions seem harmless to us. Many around the world don’t necessarily see all these as so. It is hard to decide whether a tradition is harmless or not. Does wearing a white dress to get married harm anyone? Probably not. But does celebrating Columbus day as a federal holiday harm anyone? Of course! We are celebrating a man who murdered so many Natives, yet we still celebrate this holiday!
It is hard to decide wether something is harmful when one is so closely tied to the situation. The people of the lottery community are very closely to tied to their tradition and they see it as rubbish that other communities have done away with it. That is one of the great questions that I believe that Jackson is posing: how do you truly know if something is harmful if you cannot or do not want to see both sides of the issue.
One aspect of this work that I really thought made this short story great was the foreshadowing. Tessa, the woman who ended up being killed, was late to the lottery. Jackson writes that this woman was in her home and at the last moment, she remembers that the lottery was that day. The lottery was so normal to the people of this town that it did not even make a difference. This day was just like any day. Of course it ended up that the woman who forgot about the lottery was the one who was chosen by the lottery.
This piece is full of small literary devices that make the story great. One of which is the foreshadowing. Another is the description of how the community was acting on a day they could die. The people were talking, the kids were playing. It seemed like nothing was out of the ordinary. Until the very last moment, the reader was wondering what was this lottery for? With our current definition, when you win the lottery, you win tons of money. Was their lottery the same? At the last moment, Tessa is killed. I think this could be a commentary for everyday life. We each live our day as any ordinary day. We never know when something horrible will happen. Every tragic event is a shock, just as Tessa’s death is a shock (to us and to her). This is something to think about: is “The Lottery” just about a random event somewhere at sometime or is it a piece that speaks to a larger realistic idea in our lives?