Would you expect a killing on a nice summer day to replenish field crops to be a part of a town tradition? There is a bleak town in Shirley Jackson's short story "The Lottery." Lottery is not defined by winning but losing according to one's optimism. It implies the action and behavior passed through generations that are undoubtingly accepted.
In which an individual is chosen to be sacrificed for that year by being stoned to death. Because of tradition, everyone in the community becomes an accessory to murder. Tradition and sacrifice are words that we hold sacred to our heart. But we soon learn how tradition can monopolize our minds hold a superior command over people and demonstrate how merciless and evil people can be to one another including family.
Tradition is not easily broken but it can hold great power over people. This community has embraced this barbaric routine as a tradition yet is reluctant to change. In the town square on June 27th at 10 am this rural town gathers for their annual lottery. This 80yr old tradition shows no sign of abolishment nor a reason for its continuance. Change is the opposition and is openly not welcomed. There is a small dilapidated black box that contains the names of all the families that is used for the lottery that needs replacing. "It is falling apart and, because the paint is so chipped, is hardly even black anymore" (Jackson 84).
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This box represents tradition and every year replacement talk arises but "no one liked to upset even as much tradition as was represented by the black box" (Jackson 84). This shows their loyalty and commitment to keeping the box that its resemblance has faded. It was said that the lottery box "had been made with some pieces of the box that had preceded it" (Jackson 84).
This demonstration of obsessiveness due to sentimental value makes no sense because no reason for sentiment or value has been given other than if its tradition then it must be good. Going against the grain of the community impedes their better judgment and ignoring the signs of deterioration shows there unwillingness to move forward with change. All members of the household must be present for the commencement of the ceremony but this year Mr. Dunbar absence was duly noted in an open forum. "Mr. Summers consulted his list. "Clyde Dunbar." he said "That's right.
He's broke his leg, hasn't he? Who's drawing for him?" (Jackson 84) Even the incapacitated are obligated to participate there are no passes given or allowed. Tradition request all families participation and there is no room for compassion. Mr. Summers demonstrates his lack of concern by how quickly he proceeds to the next question "who's taking his place" (Jackson 84) versus being concerned about his medical status. Mrs. Dunbar accepts the responsibility of her husband for it is their only option. There was no objection to his forwardness or contemplation of removing Mr. Dunbar from the list. The idea of no one questioning or protesting proves that tradition trumps individualism.
Old man Warner the towns oldest living resident averts his refusal to change anything. When he hears that there is talk about a neighboring town giving up the lottery, he responds by saying "Nothing but trouble in that," Old Man Warner said stoutly. "Pack of young fools" (Jacksons 84). He symbolizes the old generation and his disgust with the younger generation that are prompting to change his tradition that he has held sacred for 77yrs cant be easily digested. His way of thinking of the lottery maybe superstitious.
He says, there used to be a saying "Lottery in June, corn be heavy soon" (Jackson 84). Which means he believes that the sacrifice is necessary for the betterment of the town and if not they might have to revert to old caveman customs "eating stewed chickweed and acorns" (Jackson 84). The consequence of following an ill-conceived tradition blindly can lead you right off a cliff. Their inability to change due to a tradition demonstrates the superior command it holds over people.
Where do loyalties lie with family, friends or neither? The time has come, and all the slips of paper have been chosen from the black box. The lottery winner is Bill Hutchinson. Mrs. Hutchinson quickly protests on her husband behalf that he was rushed in selecting his slip of paper. Bill's advices his wife is grim and terse: "Shut up, Tessie," Bill Hutchinson said (Jackson 84). A second drawing takes places between the five members of the Hutchinson family.
What type of society would condone the killing of a child or a toddler? "I've got no other family except the kids. How many kids, Bill?" Mr. Summers asked formally (Jackson 84). Bill gives all the names calmly me Tessie, Bill Jr., Nancy, and little Dave to Mr. Summers. Is a tradition that important that humanity doesn't exist? Does the community see how brutal their actions are by condoning how it tears a family apart?
Once the family's name is chosen the word family and its sentiments doesn't exist anymore. The mother Tessie Hutchinson tried to include the name of their married daughter and son-in-law by yelling "Make them take their chance!" and was shot down "Daughters draw with their husbands' families, Tessie," Mr. Summers said gently. "You know that as well as anyone else" (Jackson 84).
How does a mother openly through her child under the bus? Does the pressure of winning show one's true colors or are these deep compartmentalize feelings that surface during times of war. "Be a good sport, Tessie." Mrs. Delacroix called, and Mrs. Graves said, "All of us took the same chance" (Jackson84). Be a good sport is encouraged by your friends even if it is your own death. Mrs. Tessie Hutchinson is the winner of the second lottery and is now ready to be vocal about how this isn't fair.
Time has lapsed and "All right, folks." Mr. Summers said. "Let's finish quickly." In the beginning, the narrator explains that the whole lottery took less than two hours, so it could begin at ten o'clock in the morning and still be through in time to allow the villagers to get home for noon dinner (Jackson 84). How soon people turn, it's like a full moon to a werewolf there is no escaping the inevitable no matter how much you were liked.
How merciful was Mrs. Delacroix when she selected a stone so large that required both hands or her husband saying, "Shut up, Tessie" (Jackson 87) at the moment of her stoning. The cruelty that exists in this town is astonishing. Encouraging children and others to partake in such malice behavior that you would kill your own wife and allow your children to kill their mother. Evil is represented by the town while the people are its minions.
How did tradition monopolize Tessie Hutchinson that her participation in the lottery would be her own demise? First, she was late to the lottery because she was so busy cleaning, "Clean forgot what day it was... and then I looked out the window and the kids were gone, and then I remembered it was the twenty-seventh and came a running" (Jackson 85). Its obvious that's Tessie's carless behavior believes that nothing will happen to her as if she is exempt from the lottery.
Her perfect attendance record has monopolized her mind to think that she will not be chosen. She is greeted with warm welcomes and jokes as the crowd parted for her to join and stand next to her husband and family.
Mr. Summers, who had been waiting, said cheerfully. "Thought we were going to have to get on without you, Tessie"(Jackson 84). She was loved earlier by many who respected her. This whole town became hypnotized by the lottery that they all lacked common sense that individualized them. Even though they seemed to be respectable in the beginning as soon as the cow bell is rung they immediately revert back to their barbaric customs.
Is Tessie a hypocrit for becoming condesending about the rituals she promoted, attended, and participated in many times in the past. Is she oblivious or selfish regarding the meaning of her sacrafice and how it means that crops will grow in adundance for the whole town including her children. Had she not realized that due to her clouded judgement that the food on her dinner table is because of the previous years recipients. Is it weird that last year or any previous year winners are not talked about. Is ther an unspoken rule that the stoned are forgotten.
All these things coupled together can monopolize one's thoughts by trichery if you allow fate to blindfolded you, and decieved you all the way to the endby a stoned death. Jackson has controlled our thoughts with such inappropriate behavior surrounding Tessie that this character is popular all the way till the end. Even though tradition is the main focal point of this story Tessie draws you in with her objectivity after winning the lottery. Would she have opposed if another family was chosen.
"The Lottery" is an extreme example of what can happen when traditions go unquestioned. It starts of innocent and gives a massive eruption at the end with symbolisms of death and how its masqueraded. The black box promotes and emphasizes death. As well as the characters like Mr. Graves whos name signifies burial or to be buried. Old Man Warner is the voice that warns you that changed is not needed or wanted and the killings should continue for the sake of continuing.
Tessie Hutchinson is death itself and is only concern when it involes her. Jackson embodies all things that seem to be good and incorporates a meaning that sometimes we have to let go of things in order to make a fresh start. What a sinister way to show explore it but in some culture it is believed.
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