The Dangers of A Blind Tradition in “The Lottery” by Shirley Jackson

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Traditions are a people’s way of life. However, traditions pose a splendid danger to people if followed blindly except question by newer generations. The Lottery by using Shirley Jackson is a testament to the bad unquestioned traditions which are heinous to the society and destroys its moral fabric. The Lottery is analogous to the present day society and juxtaposes the unveiling of events based on human nature, culture and traditions. This paper, meticulously analyses The Lottery paying eager attention to the dangers posed by retrogressive unquestioned traditions.
The lottery is carried out on the 27th of June annually. Mr. Summers, a pathetic man with no clear family background guides the process. Everyone in the village is obliged to attend the ceremony. Families are organized and the appropriate individual to do the picking of a piece of paper is selected. The person ought to be the head of a family or household. The process involves picking papers from a black box, the individual who picks the paper with a black spot is stoned to death by the entire village, including his immediate family members. This year, Tessie Hutchinson was the victim, and she got stoned by children and adults alike.

Critical Analysis

Traditions are the fabric of a society. However, traditions have to be analyzed in order to establish the impact that it has in the society (Weyrauch 33). In the short story, The Lottery, the villagers, including children participate in cold blooded murder without question. This is done all in the name of tradition. The village has few people, around 300 in number. The families are ripped off one of their own each year with reasons which are not clearly established. The conservative villagers have no idea of the real reason for the institution of The Lottery. They commit murder in order to fulfil traditions. Old man Warner equates quitting from The Lottery to the loss of civilization and a retrogression to old primitive ways. He says, “Listening to the young folks, nothing good enough for them. Next thing you know they’ll be wanting to go back to living in caves, nobody work anymore, live that way for a while (Jackson 4).”


The black box represents tradition and the loyalty that the villagers have for such tradition. The black box is spoilt and old, Mr. Summers has been reasoning with the villagers to have a new black box, however, the villagers have insisted on using the old box because it was made using some pieces of the initial black box. The villagers believe so much in the symbol represented by the black box, and are careful not to change any variable but maintain the ceremony as it was at onset. However, the villagers are disloyal to other relics of their tradition. For example, the use of wooden chips. Mr. Summers was able to convince them to use chips made of paper instead of the wooden chips (Jackson 2).


Though traditions are important, they have to be analyzed to ensure they do not harm the society (Zenn 39). The Lottery, is one such retrogressive tradition which ought to be scrapped off to bring peace to the villagers. It is an uncivilized tradition promoting murder of innocents such as Mrs. Tessie Hutchinson. The Lottery represents other contemporary wayward societal traditions such as human sacrifice, sexism, slavery, human trafficking, religious and racial discrimination which are all considered inhumane (Aosved, Allison & Patricia 17).

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Works Cited

Aosved, Allison C., and Patricia J. Long. "Co-occurrence of rape myth acceptance, sexism, racism, homophobia, ageism, classism, and religious intolerance." Sex roles 55.7-8 (2006): 481-492.

Friend, Cecilia, and Jane Singer. Online journalism ethics: Traditions and transitions. Routledge, 2015.

Jackson, Shirley. "The lottery." The New Yorker 26 (1948): 25-28.

Weyrauch, Walter O., ed. Gypsy law: Romani legal traditions and culture. Univ of California Press, (2001).

Zinn, Jens O. "Risk society and reflexive modernization." Social theories of risk and uncertainty: An introduction (2008): 18-51.


January 20, 2022


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