The Lottery by Shirley Jackson Theme Essay
The author in this story narrates about a certain tradition in a small town that performs inhuman ritual in every year. All people in this village gather for the ceremony each June on 27th from 10.00 am to 12.00 noon. The small town has a population estimated to be 300 people who increase every year when the event approaches. The ceremony involves picking a paper from a black box to which the society has made. One of the papers has a black dot in it. If a person happens to select that paper, he/she is stoned to death. This signifies elimination of a bad omen from the society and the event is scheduled for the following year.
The claim in this story is that the town must hold this ceremony each year. The beliefs about this ceremony are confined in the culture of this social group. Every member of this family must participate and every year, they must eliminate one of their own who they believed had a bad fate. The argument in this story is that their ancestors practiced this cultural practice and hence should continue. At each year, there is a person in this society with a bad omen, and hence eliminating that person would eventually save the whole society from bad fate. According to Jackson (pp. 3), they also argue that the tradition is an eternal one and has lasted for very many years. No one has an idea when the tradition started. Furthermore, nobody knows when the tradition shall stop hence the elders use this argument to justify this tradition.
Shirley Jackson interprets the story with a suggestion that the culture is inhuman for the society members. According to what the author says, other towns that practiced the same ritual stopped a long time ago. The author vies the culture as inappropriate and unnecessary for this society. The author also sees the people who still hold onto such cultures as illogical. After the old man Warner heard about some towns in the north who stopped this tradition, he said that these people are just a “pack of crazy fools” (Jackson 4). He also suggested that they could only go back to the caves and start living there. The author exposes the man as illiterate than the young folks discussing the towns in the north.
The author seems to question the significance of this cultural practice according to how he narrates it. He demonizes the people in this village, especially the elders for propelling a culture that they do not know the meaning. He suggests that lack of history for this culture has made many people lose their dear lives. The tradition in this society is only powerful because nobody seems to trace the origin of these practices. The people in this village can never rebel against the practice, because it seems to be propelled by a powerful force of nature.
The lottery official who is an elder in this society frequently talked to the people about making a new black box. The original black box was lost long time ago and they always wanted to replace it. However, the author shows that these people lacked the interest to replace the black box, which shows they did not like this culture. Mr. Summers who was a lottery official wanted the members of this community to finish the event in a quick way. The author seems to demonize the culture as it lacked meaning and importance for this community. According to what the author narrates, Mr. Summers said that “guess we would better get started, get this over with so we can get back to work”. The elders themselves lacked the important and significance of such an event and hurried to work on other vital tasks (Jackson 2).
The story narrates of a culture that would eventually fade away with time. The use of a black box concept by the author is symbolic for a bad lack. The people in this village believed that the person who picked a paper with a black dot would be stoned to death. This symbolizes a black culture that is inhuman and unfriendly to human beings. The original black box was lost and replaced by another one long time ago. However, the author tells the reader that the current box has faded and that signifies the fading of this culture too. It has become shabbier and has splintered badly (Jackson 2).
Inappropriate and horrific cultures still exist in our societies. The story shows how people’s identities are defined by their cultures. Man has no a free will and their behaviors, attitudes are closely monitored by the values, norms and beliefs of their culture. However, some of these people understand the unfair practices that revolve around them. The Lottery” by Shirley Jackson, Tessie, who is stoned to death by the fellow community members, understands that the culture is unfair (Jackson pp. 8). However, society as a whole is larger than the sum of its individual parts. Therefore, things that happen in the society shall affect individuals no matter their beliefs, ideas or their opinions.
Use of irony in this story is also important in addressing the topic. The author uses ironic instances to show how these inappropriate and violent cultures still exist. The old generation is the people the society believes to be wise and with an ability to think more effectively. However, in this lottery town, these old people are progressing and supporting a culture that is harmful and violent to humanity. They are unable to stop this culture due to rigidly held beliefs and values. A man suggests that it is his 77th time to practice this event. In contrast, the young generation sees no sense in practicing these cultures. They seem to hail the idea that the northern towns have already ceased practicing the event and that some are in the process of terminating it (Jackson 4).
The author suggests that in past, there used to be songs and salutes during the event but these had faded away. Use of this in the story confirms to the reader that the tradition is fading away and people eventually lost the meaning of this event. People who used to have vigor and salutation for the event no longer have it. The story aims to remind the reader that something that is good to humanity never dies off, but eventually gets better and sophisticated with time. However, fading off the songs and salutation for this event means the culture is harmful and people no longer appreciate it.
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