Literature Breakdown

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Short stories are about issues that are easily solved. As a result, a short story is an intense event or fiction in which the ending is unpredictable. The Lottery is a short story written just a few months before it was published in June of 1948. Shirley Jackson is the author. The plot revolves around a small fictional village that celebrates the lottery every year. The short story is described as "one of the most famous short stories in American culture history." Traditions and traditions are vital in a society and must be followed to ensure the community's survival and sense of belonging.
The Lottery is a short story which was written a few months before its first publication in June 26th, 1948. The author is Shirley Jackson. The story portrays a small fictional village that observes an event called the lottery every year. The description of the short story is “one of the popular short stories in the history of American culture.” Tradition and customs are essential in a community and are followed to ensure the existence and sense of belonging to a community.

The Lottery was not a predictable story since the title makes the readers speculate that the story is about a person who wins the lottery but in real sense the story focuses on traditions that are upheld by a small fictional village every year; where one person from the village has to be stoned to death. The twist of plots is intriguing as the story does not end happily but ends with Tess Hutchinson screaming “it’s not fair, it’s not right.” The conclusion indicates that the tradition has become insignificant over time, but it appears never to stop any time in the future. It is also evident that the villagers do not understand when the tradition was started and this makes it so compelling hence cannot be rebelled. What the villagers recall is when the official of the lottery used to perform a chant that was tuneless, others believed the official used to stand while singing, and others thought that the lottery official was expected to walk among the villagers. Also, there was a ritual salute which was used to be addressed to each person who came to the box to draw a paper but recently the official only addresses each person by word of mouth. However, it is different now as all the things that the people recalled years ago were no longer practiced. The tradition is made known to the readers, but the importance of the ritual is not well communicated (Yildirim 5-6). The narrator did not explain the significance of the lottery to the readers which can't be attributed to sustaining some villagers as stoning one person. Instead, it is seen as a ritual that unifies the villagers.

In the short story, the village is the protagonist. It is not seen as the hero in a right way but hero with a deadly fault. The village tries to remain as a unified entity by performing the lottery annually, and this element purports to be the hero. The event is a way of bonding over something as villagers. There is no individual hero in the short story who tries to stop the stoning of people. Tess Hutchinson is not a hero but seen as the victim of the lottery, and her death is incidental to the story. Mrs. Delacroix did not care that she was talking to Tess earlier and somewhat help in stoning Tess. Mrs. Delacroix picked a large stone that she had to pick with both rocks. "Come on," she told Mrs. Dunbar "hurry up." The villagers, therefore, lack trust in each other as no one seems to oppose the killing, not even Mr. Hutchison. On the other hand, the lottery is the antagonist. The villagers are afraid of the black box but were mesmerized by the event itself. The possibility of death of one villager thrills the villagers as they turn in large numbers to participate in the event. Villagers forget that their turn will come one day and will be stoned to death mercilessly. The event promises protection of the villagers but in essence what it does is the opposite by breaking family and community ties by killing one of the villagers each year. The old man Warner was defensive when Mrs. Adam tried to tell him that some villages had stopped the lotteries. "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 anymore, live that way for a while. Used to be a saying about 'Lottery in June, corn be heavy soon.' The first thing you know, we'd all be eating stewed chickweed and acorns. There's always been a lottery," he said.

The Lottery brings the aspect that the people refuse to follow traditions and norms in society. The short story analyzes traditions regarding gender and social divisions. The paper was distributed randomly meaning that there existed wealthy families than others. Replacing paper with wood can also be interpreted as substituting money with goods for barter trade. Therefore, symbolism is evident in this short story. The paper symbolizes exchange value. In cash transactions or lotteries, paper means wealth. The Mrs. Hutchison was the unfortunate villager in this case where the paper suggested that she had to die. It is thus worrying how life can be unpredictable and people live by chance. Another symbolism is the choice of characters names. Mr. Summer for instance who is the guiding mentor of the short story (Dabek 2). Summer is the season of the year where there is growth and thus seen as season of life. Tessie Hutchison is the village scapegoat and is linked to Anne Hutchison who suffered injustice because she believed in Antinomian which was profane to the Puritan society. In 1638, she was banned from Massachusetts. The surname indicates that the community did not condone tolerance and the ritual suggests the worst instinct.

The temporary setting of short story; a day in mid-summer, points out the period of growth. The children are used to show freedoms of the summer as the writer indicates that they were on a break for summer. The “flowers blossoming profusely and the grass was richly green” was also an indication of growth. The murder in the ritual is a technique of harvesting abundant growth. In prehistoric time, summer solstice was a ritual and the lottery, therefore, was an amusing sign that symbolized the primitive function. The violence in the short story can be used to equate the author’s life. She wrote the short story after she met an ordeal where some school children hit her with stones on her way home (Dabek). The setting of the story also described the rural area where the author lived when she wrote The Lottery.

The short story is remarkable as it educates the people on how specific traditions in the society blind us regardless of the effect they leave in the lives of the people. The community should thus be adamant in shunning some traditions that are put in place in the name of unity, but in real sense, they are destroying families. It is also important to be prudent and engage the others in educating people where an individual thinks that things should be corrected. If Mrs. Hutchison were bold enough to say that the ritual was not right before her day of stoning, maybe the village would change their ignorant actions.

Works Cited

Dabek, Anna. The Picture of Society in “The Lottery” by Shirley Jackson. GRIN Verlag, 2014.

Yildirim, Ahmet. Blind adherence to traditions in "The Lottery" by Shirley Jackson. GRIN Verlag, 2014.

September 01, 2021



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The Lottery Short Story

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