“The Lottery”, by Shirley Jackson, is a short story about a village that organizes a cruel tradition each year amongst its villagers. It is a village that shows the dark side of humanity. The tradition involves a raffle where each household writes their names and the drawing is completely random. Everyone in the village must participate, and it determines who wins the lottery. I first assumed that it is a lottery so whoever wins get a reward, but in this village the result is death. All of the villagers will stone “the winner” to death.
There are characters in “The Lottery” who explain the tradition of the community and oddly enough, vehemently agree with it. Jackson is introducing the readers to a world that refuses to move forward from the traditions of their ancestors. One of the characters is Old Man Varner who is one of the oldest main in the entire village. He reveals the history of the Lottery and how it has happened each year for seventy-seven years. “They do say,” Mr. Adams said to Old Man Warner, who stood next to him, ‘that over in the north village they’re talking of giving up the lottery. ‘Old Man Warner snorted. ‘Pack of crazy fools,’ he said. “Listening to the young folks, nothing’s good enough for them. Next thing you know, they’ll be wanting to go back to living in caves, nobody works any more, live that way for a while” (Jackson). In this quote, a villager is telling the Old Man how another village is thinking of ending the lottery. Old Man disagrees on the idea of ending it and thinks that they are crazy for ending a tradition that would apparently lead a society to become jobless. He is a main example of how the tradition of the lottery is horrible. I believe Old Man is a person of traditions and who believes that the lottery should stay and without it the village will be a desolate land. As the oldest member he is not trying to make the community better but rather is telling the villagers not to ban the Lottery. From seeing seventy-six innocent people murdered due to the lottery he does not see that it is wrong and he is blind from the tradition. Jackson, through Old Man Warner, uses a sense of irony as the practice of the lottery is quite archaic, yet Warner deems that those who ban it are old fashioned. Jackson, displays to the reader how even “modern” societies may engage in acts of violence all for the sake of preserving tradition.
In the end of the story the black box represents death instead of weakness. Mr. Summers suggested that instead of using the old and worn box we should make a new box. The villagers claimed that a new box should not be made because it represents tradition. But the box was never taken care of even when the villagers say it represents death. The villagers might have a fear that making a new box will eventually lead to death which they do not want.The way people will die after they are chosen from the lottery is that they will be stoned to death by everyone in the community. In the beginning as a reader I thought the stones was something that kids played with while waiting for the lottery to start but it is used to kill an innocent person that name is chosen in the lottery. The very act of stoning can also be seen as an archaic practice, as such methods are no longer present in the real world, with the exception of a few Middle Eastern countries. Jackson, does an exemplary job in conveying to readers the troubles that may arise when everyone conforms and idly follows past traditions, without question.
- Maisha Mohinuddin