Thursday, May 19, 2016

Response to Shirley Jackson's "the Lottery"

Shirley Jackson’s “The Lottery” is a fictional short story with a sick dystopian twist to it. The short story contains plenty of irony which makes it funny. It also contains foreshadowing and suspense to keep your eyes glued. The story starts out almost as if you were reading a Disney fairytale by stating “The morning of June 27th was clear and sunny, with fresh warmth of a full-summer day; the flowers were blossoming profusely and the grass was richly green” (page 1). The setting really sets a positive mood for the reader and the imagery puts their mind at ease, all though not for long.
Jumping into the second paragraph, the story hastily sets in the suspense and uneasy foreshadowing by telling us “Bobby Martin had already stuffed his pockets full of stones, and the other boys soon followed his example, selecting the smoothest and roundest stones”. Shirley Jackson already foreshadows the conclusion. The suspense in “The Lottery” builds up because we are not told the truth about the lottery until the climax. By withholding the explanation and details as to what the lottery actually entails leaves us with endless questions and suspicions. You would think some kind of monetary reward would be granted to the winner just like in our society today. As the people gather around they seem like they are forming a cult. One by one, as the names are called out, the head of each family goes up and selects a paper from the box. As the roll call continues, we get a glimpse of the weariness and nervousness within the crowd. Tessie Hutchinson, in particular, seems very worried about the draw. Still, we are unaware of the conclusion of the lottery.
When the paper with the black dot is drawn by none other than Tessie Hutchinson the catalyst of suspense we've been waiting for finally ends. After the first stone is thrown at Tessie she shouts about how unfair the lottery is. Screaming “It isn’t fair, it isn’t right” (page 8) until she can no longer bear the pain, Tessie dies. The dramatic conclusion and the essence of this barbaric ritual become clear to us. In the final moments of this short story, we quickly learn that the “Lottery” is not the luck of the draw we all wish we won. Instead however,  this “lucky” winner will inevitably be violently stoned to death by everyone in the town, including the children.
Plenty of subtle clues throughout the story have hinted this ending to us. Ironically Mr. “Graves” is the man who makes the paper slips that contain the list of all the families, of which will be drawn at random to see who gets sacrificed. One quotation in particular diluted the curiosity of this traditional ritual. “Although the villagers had forgotten the ritual and lost the original black box, they still remembered to use the stones” (page 8). A tradition that is passed on for many years is supposed to stay the same for all those years; that is what makes it a tradition. The cold blooded, violent truth is that these people are savages. They are sacrificing their own every year for the sake of trying to keep a dying momento (the black box) alive and justifying their actions with tradition. The only thing left in this sick tradition is violence and killing.

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