Lottery By Shirley Jackson

In “The Lottery,” Shirley Jackson uses symbolism to make us aware of
the pointless nature of humanity regarding tradition and violence. The story
starts off on a beautiful summer day in a small town. The author describes the
day as very euphoric but strikes a contrast between the atmosphere of the town
and the atmosphere of the people gathered in the square. The atmosphere is
subdued, where the children are “gathered around quietly.” The black
box is the central theme or idea in the story. It symbolizes at first some type
of mystery, but as we read the ending we realize that it is synonymous with
doom. Someone’s fate lies in an inanimate object, the black box. We do not
always enjoy change, even if it might prove beneficial to us. The box is
symbolic of our loathing of change; it is old and splintered showing that we
cling to what is familiar rather than change and it also symbolizes the
traditions of the community. No one in the little town questions the origin of
the black box, but accept it as an intrical part of their lives. The lottery
itself is symbolic of the paradox of the human psyche between compassion on one
hand and the thirst for violence and cruelty on the other. An example of this is
when the children are enjoying a break from school, playing and being children,
and suddenly they are being joined by “rational” adults in stoning a
mother to death. It appears that tradition has blinded these people in an
irrational way, making them unable to think of a reason why this possibly should
not be happening. When forced with the possibility of death, human nature in all
its complexity, comes down to one instinctive urge, that of survival. When
Tessie was in no danger she was gossiping with the other ladies and even
encouraged her husband to go and pick a piece of paper. When Tessie wins the
lottery; she pleads for another chance and screams for mercy. She demands that
her daughters take their chances as well, which is indicative of regression
toward our basic instinct of survival. The pieces of paper that are lifted away
by the breeze is not only symbolic of the ease with which life can be taken but
is also symbolic of vast civilizations that were doomed to eventual failure for
believing in and acting on tradition and not living according to the word of
God. We see that even as Tessie is being stoned to death does she not question
the reasoning behind the lottery, but why it should be her that has to die.

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