The Lottery: Litterary Response

Last Updated: 19 Apr 2023
Essay type: Response
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The Lottery, by Shirley Jackson, is a compelling story about the human race and how it is affected by its surrounding traditions. When the 27th of June arrives, a village is overtaken by a two hour lottery, which includes the picking of stones, a black box and ends in a fight for the “winners” life. One of the prominent themes in this story is human hypocrisy. Although most of the characters are shown through their words and actions, one particular person stands out: Mrs “Tessie” Hutchinson.

At the beginning of the story, Tessie heads towards the town square, stating that she “forgot what day it was” to her neighbour Mrs. Delacroix as they both chuckled softly. Soon enough, phrases are shared between Tessie and her soon to be rivals: Thought we were going to have to get on without you, Tessie”, (Mr. Summers), “Your in time, though”, (Mrs. Delacroix). Throughout the story, Mrs. Hutchinson doesn’t seem to mind the fact that someone, close to her or not, will be stoned to death.

Her attitude at the start of the lottery is calm and cheerful; Tessie is unaffecyed by what the outcome of the lottery might be, since she thinks that she wouldn't be in that situation. When it is her family's turn to pick up their lottery ticket and finds out that her husband got the "winning paper", her character completely changes. Mrs. Hutchinson starts to lash out at Mr. Summers, the lottery director, saying that "you didn't give him time enough to take any paper he wanted. I saw you. It wasn't fair! ".

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Tessie's character evolves by a simple change in the lottery: her family becoming the center of it all. She tries to find ways of getting out of this situation, like including her eldest daughter Eva and her husband Don, in her family, but, little does she know that "daughters draw with their husbands' family". Tessie continues to state that "it isn't fair" and I think we ought to start over. I tell you it wasn't fair". When each member of her family takes turns to pick out their papers, Tessie becomes hesitant as her turn arrives.

Her time is up as she is revealed as the "winning ticket" holder. She becomes upset and desperately tries to change everyones mind by saying her most famous last words: "It isn't fair" Tessie now realizes that she is in the once ignored position that all the other unlucky winners ahve been in the past and, soon enough, her "luck" comes to an end as she is stoned to death. Hypocrisy is a very big part of our society; everyday, someone is saying or creating false assumptions of an appearance of virtue or religion.

They might indicate that it's wrong to practice a certain religion when they do it themselves . Even if hypocrites are a part of this world, we can learn that not everyone is as they seem. The second prominent theme is sacrifices. This village is run by a very old tradition which includes the sacrifice of a human being to please the gods, who will send down fresh food and crops to them. Everyone in the village, including the children, take part in this sacrifice, wether or not they fully understand why thay are doing this.

Little Davey is handed a stone at the end of the story so that his mom can be stoned. He is a little boy, so he doesn’t understand what’s going on. Since he has been brought up in this society, he might start to accept that fact that at least he will have plenty of food on the table every day, even if the total number of people has gone down. This story shows us that the traditions we practice are still being questioned as a part of our society today. Such as imitating fath , going to church every Sunday because everyone else does.

What happened in The Lottery was a necessary sacrifice in their struggle for the meaning of this ritual. If this sacrifice didn’t hurt or kill the person it was being done to, there wouldn’t be any meaning to it. The villagers woulnd’t have sacrificed many innocent beings to please such gods. This all turns toward us: our inability as human beings to question such monstrosity is still an unanswered question above our heads. Shirley Jackson is trying to tell us that sacrifices have been around for centuries and aren’t uncommon, but our thoughts about them are common.

A young child might ask,”What gods are we pleasing? ”,and, “Are you sure we are doing the right thing? ”, but they would still get the same answer: “because the bible said so” or , “ We’ve been doing this for centuries”. The Lottery illustrates that we are living in a world where you are ostracised for believing in nothing at all and being brainwashed into believing in another. The first technique present in this story is symbolism. Two items are used during the lottery: a black box and stones. In a way, the black box holds each and every persons destiny and fate.

The fact that it is black is a symbol of what they ahve witnessed every year: death. Every year, the lottery is taken place and, at the same time, death makes its mark. It comes back to take whoever’s been left behind. Like the old saying “It is always darkest before dawn”, death hangs over them until they have pleased the gods; until they have a lifetime supply of crops. This story brings us into the darker side of the lottery. The side where not everything is as it seems. If it weren’t for the color of the box, it would have been harder to interpret where the story was heading off to.

The second items where the stones: “the young boys begin to gather their stones and make a pile in the corner, guarding them like their most prized weapon”. The stones symbolize the beating of a person, in this case. Someone is going to get beaten to death by these stones, which is an important part of the lottery. At least in the eyes of twisted beings. The second technique present is foreshadowing. Foreshadowing is found at the beginning of the story, where we are being introduced to a somewhat pleasant event that is about to take place.

The fact that the lottery in this village takes less than two hours and, in others, two days, gives us an indication that this lottery is bigger than it seems; it isn’t some regular event, but a sinister one. While reading this story, a novel that shares one of the themes comes to mind. “Nothing”, a book by Janne Teller, tells the tale of a boy named Pierre Anthon who has known, for a long time, that nothing matters, just realized that nothing is worth doing and decides to leave his classroom, climb a plum tree and stay there. His friends and classmates try, with every attempt, to get him down but he won’t budge.

So to prove to Pirre Anthon that there is a meaning to life, they set out to build a heap of meaning in an abandoned sawmill. Their plans slowly start to take a defferent turn when their heap of meaning includes the scarification of a beloved neighbourly dog, Cinderella. They give up all their special belongings to find out what the meaning of life really is until it gets out of hand; they get upset towards Pierre Anthon for making them go through great lengths to discover the meaning, that they lash out and end up killing him.

There is a primary connection between both stories: the sacrifice of a human or animal to obtain food or to re-discover the meaning of life. Globally, sacrifices and traditions have been around for entiries. They’ve shaped the cultures that are present in this generation, such as one ancient tribe of our civilization: the Hurons. Many decades ago, they used to have a special way of thanking the gods for the food they received. Every year, the leader of the tribe would dress in elaborate, colourful clothing and lead a family up a sacred mountain.

There, the leader would dress the middle child, a girl, between the ages of six and nine, in clothing similar to his. If the middle child was a boy, he wouldn’t be sacrificed; the family would wait until they gave birth to a girl. The family of the child would then sit in a circle around a large fire as the leader recites prayers to the gods. The child is then laid on the wood of fire and burnt alive. To this day, you can still hear the cries of the little girls, but those cries are memoirs of their lives. Memoirs on the sinister sacrifices that took place

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The Lottery: Litterary Response. (2018, Sep 24). Retrieved from

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