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Shirley Jackson's short story The Lottery - Essay Example

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Shirley Jackson's short story The Lottery is a story of blind disobedience (or we might call it "group-think") that evokes a strong emotional reaction. The situation in which the seemingly innocent villagers find themselves is at once alien but also strangely familiar…
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Shirley Jacksons short story The Lottery
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Shirley Jackson's short story The Lottery is a story of blind disobedience (or we might call it "group-think that evokes a strong emotional reaction. The situation in which the seemingly innocent villagers find themselves is at once alien but also strangely familiar. The Lottery is a gruesome depiction of modern life. It is a story that affords an uncomfortable and unforgettable shock of recognition, which makes it a stand out piece of literature.
In the story. the villagers are caught in a social trap (which could have been avoided with enough motivation). There is the conflict--the inner feelings of the villagers about the lottery, conflicting with their desire to conform. This is one thematic aspect of this story; it is an allusion to the universal human experience of "group-think," where the mindless directive of tradition and prevailing superstition dominates in the face of rationality. "Lottery in June, corn be heavy soon," Old man Warner says, verbalizing the belief that is the foundation of the practice of the lottery.
The symbolism of the "ruling class," or more specifically, the capitalists, is characterized by the three men who hold power in the small town. There is a rigid division of labor, which is apparent even in the behavior of the children. This is actually still within the context of "group-think." The story not just speaks of "modern society", but any society that one finds himself in (be it a society of two). It is natural for humans to succumb to the pressure of conformity, and this is the flaw that Jackson addresses. The way villagers accept the lottery is in direct relation to the way people in modern society live in the murky shadow of tradition. Even those who inwardly oppose the lottery do not have the motivation to actively denounce it. Even the village children conform to the ideology that victimizes them all. The children are even uneasy about freedom: "The feeling of liberty sat uneasily on most of them".
And then there is the paradox of the "evolution" of the lottery. The lottery has gradually become modernized to accommodate practical demands, and the rituals that originally went with the lottery are no more, but the irrelevant practice is kept alive.
Tessie Hutchinson, the victim of the stoning at the end of tho story, arrives late for the lottery. Tessie protests against the lottery openly, but only after discovering that she is the one to be stoned. Also, a couple mentions that other villages are either talking of giving up the lottery, or have already done so, but they do not directly suggest that their village do so as well. They uneasily exist with the prospect of arbitrary death, but are helpless to combat it.
The denouement, resolution, and climax of the story arrive almost simultaneously. The purpose of the Lottery is revealed. There is palpable tension until the climax, when everyone discovers that Tessie Hutchinson has the paper with the black dot.
There is actually no one character that can be said to be the protagonist or antagonist of this story--the events and the experience happen to everyone, and everyone is involved in the same way as far as the lottery is concerned (of course, there is still the difference in the experiences of the "ruling class"--Summers, Martin, and Graves--and that of the ordinary villagers). In the very process of drawing lots, there is the suggestion of a democracy, but it is a false democracy where the villagers are obliged to kill one of their members.
This blind conformity is the human tragedy that affects us all. It is as Jackson states: we live with "pointless violence and general inhumanity". Read More
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