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Society is constantly engulfed by evil, which emanates from the daily unforeseen and ordinary surroundings. Shirley Jackson's " The Lottery" is a contentious novel that depicts evil in a cruel tradition that cultures see as essential to their existence. The novel, which was published in 1948, is considered appealing because of its nihilistic undercurrent rather than an assault on its customary subservience. As Jackson employs figurative elements such as foreshadowing, plot structure, and symbolism, the author is able to build tension in the novel, culminating in a surprising ending. The story unfolds with the townspeople meeting on the town square to participate in a lottery that is headed by Mr. Summers. With the following events, it is evident that human beings possess dual personality, the good and the evil, in which the evil, in most cases, intervenes, thus, causing the harm to the community. In the story, various characters are identified to possess dual personalities including Mr. Summer, old Man Warner, Mrs. Delacroix, and Mr. Bill Hutchinson.
The first character with duality personality is Mr. Summer, who leads all the events in the village, such as dances, parties, and charities. His action is very contradictive, he is sponsor for funny and enjoyable actives, and the other side he is the lottery man. On one hand, he symbolizes the pleasure of life and on the other, he symbolizes death. The narrator describes him as a joyful man who conducted various civic activities in the community. Jackson states, “The lottery was conducted--as were the square dances, the teen club, the Halloween program--by Mr. Summers who had time and energy to devote to civic activities” (Jackson Para. 4). His willingness to organize activities in the community that create joy to the people reflects his name; summer refers to the warm season of the year when people harvest crops. On the other hand, Mr. Summers is also associated with the pain and agony that the townspeople undergo. He organizes the lottery process that results in the death of individuals every year. In his analysis, Seymour Lainhoff also associates Mr. Summers with evil. He describes him as, “more barren, more unhappy, more willing “to shift the burden of his pains and sorrows to another, who will suffer them in his stead” (Lainhoff 223). Mr. Summer is a lonely man, no kids and his personality can be put in doubt, and may be the reason for his conducting of the rituals to punish others for his failures.
The second character who stands out with his contradicting personality is the old Man Warner who is the oldest man in the city. At first one would argue that his intentions are good for the society. He is very happy about the ritual since he considers this a source of blessing. When Mr. Adams tells him that the people of the North are yet to abandon the rituals he tells him, "Pack of crazy fools, listening to the young folks, nothing's good enough for them” (Jackson Para. 33). He later associates the lottery with success when he exclaimed that “Lottery in June, corn be heavy soon.” According to Allen Barbara, being as old as the lottery would mean that Waner is a role model to the other townspeople. However, not being chosen as a scapegoat for all these years can be associated with his evilness. Barbara discusses the various elements of a scapegoat (a human being used in the public to remove taint or impairment), and notes that a significant element is the fact that the person chosen must be divine. As such she claims that, “Mrs. Hutchinson’s divinity was identified by a supernatural force such as fate or providence” (Barbara 233). Since sacrifice is associated with righteousness, al the scapegoats are expected to have some form of divinity. In Mr. Waner’s case, he ought to be evil for not being chosen over the years. In addition to this, his support for the killings reveals his evil intentions for others.
Double personality can also be observed in Mrs. Delacroix who appears in the story repeatedly. The character seemed to be friends with Mrs. Tessie Hutchinson, and before the lottery began, they were chatting. The narrator reveals that Mrs. Hutchinson talked to Mrs. Delacroix “who stood next to her, and they both laughed softly” (Jackson Para. 8). Listening to one another and laughing softly and further tapping one’s back to say goodbye surely indicates that the two women were acquaintances. At this point, Mrs. Delacroix acted to be happy with Mrs. Hutchinson. The “true” friendship that the two shared became doubtable when Mrs. Delacroix showed her deceitful character. Hellen Nebeker asserts that Jackson had characterized Delacroix to be an evil-hearted character. According to her, “Dickie Delacroix (of-the-cross) urges us to an awareness of the hairy ape within us all” (Nebeker 228). She claims that the vulgarized name reveals the transformation of Mrs. Delacroix’s character from a warm and friendly individual to a cruel person who picks the largest stone to hit on her friend, and encouraging others to do the same.
The fourth character with double personality is Mrs. Tessie Hutchinson who appears to be loving and caring mother at the start of the story, but ends up showing her selfishness to escape the lottery results. After the first draw, Mr. Summers had mentioned Mr. Bill Hutchinson to be the one who had the “black spot.” Mrs. Hutchinson felt it was not fair at all to sacrifice her husband. Thus, she claimed, “You didn't give him time enough to take any paper he wanted. I saw you. It wasn't fair!" (Jackson Para. 61). She tried to intervene for her husband so that he does not face the wrath. However, in the end, it became apparent when she insisted her whole family to participate in the lottery second process so that she escapes the death. Friedman Lenemaja also suggests that Mrs. Hutchison is an evil character since she acts like frightened animal who does not seek protection of her children. He states, “instead of giving her life for her children, Tessie prefers that they take their chances also…” (Fiedman 231). This act reveals her flaw as a mother; she is very selfish and would rather save herself from danger.
In conclusion, Jackson shows both sides of the human being and how material value has more value than human life. When various characters in the story are analyzed, it is evident that they possess dual personality in which evil overruns most of their deeds. The first person identified in the story with double personality is Mr. Summers. Although he appears jovial and is always willing to organize developmental events in the community, it is evident that he has pain underlying his outer look. This might contributes to his support of the lottery process that results in the death of the people. The old man Waner is also associated with evil character although he tries to wish well for the society. He is 70 years and has never been chose for the rituals; this associates him with lack of righteousness or divinity. Mrs. Delacroix and Mrs. Hutchinson also have double personalities; they appear to be welcoming from the outside, but deeper they are very selfish. Through their characters, Jackson reveals the evilness in the society.
Allen Barbara. “A Folkloristic Look at Shirley Jackson’s ‘The Lottery,” in Tennessee Folklore Society Bulletin, Vol. XLVI, No. 4, December, 1980.
Friedman, Lenemaja. “The Short Stories,” in Shirley Jackson, Twayne Publishers, 1975.
Jackson, Shirley. The lottery and other stories. Macmillan, 2005.
Lainhoff, Seymour. “Jackson’s ‘The Lottery,’” in The Explicator, Vol. XII, No.5, March, 1954, p. 34.
Nebeker, Helen, E. “’The Lottery’: Symbolic Tour de Force,” in American Literature, Vol. 46, No. 1, March, 1974, pp. 100-07.
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