TITLE OF PAPER
Short Story Essay
Literature and Composition
November 8th 2018
Shirley Jackson, a horror and mystery author, wrote a controversial short story in The New Yorker called “The Lottery”. Small-town Americans wh
The villagers’ blind acceptance of the lottery has allowed ritual murder to become part of their town fabric. As they have demonstrated, they feel powerless to change—or even try to change—anything, although there is no one forcing them to keep things the same. Old Man Warner is so faithful to the tradition that he fears the villagers will return to primitive times if they stop holding the lottery. These ordinary people, who have just come from work or from their homes and will soon return home for lunch, easily kill someone when they are told to. And they don’t have a reason for doing it other than the fact that they’ve always held a lottery to kill someone. If the villagers stopped to question it, they would be forced to ask themselves why they are committing a murder—but no one stops to question. For them, the fact that this is tradition is reason enough and gives them all the justification they need.
The first aspect of human nature that Jackson is depicting is blindly following tradition. Although it is a violent sacrifice for agricultural prosperity, the lottery isn’t questioned by any of the townsfolk. The children are happily collecting rocks and the adults are more concerned about the black box rather than the fact that they are about to randomly choose who is about to die. Long-standing traditions are harder to question because of the “respect” it has garnered throughout the years. To the people who practice these traditions, the thought alone of giving it up is absurd. Mr. Adams discusses a rumor with Old Man Warner about the north village giving up the lottery and he responds with “Pack of crazy fools. 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, … Used to be a saying about ‘Lottery in June, corn be heavy soon.’ … There’s always been a lottery.” Old Man Warner’s only argument was that there has always been a lottery, therefore there is no actual reasoning behind why he still follows it other than the fact that it has always been there. He is so set in his ways and in how long the tradition had been there for that he refuses to question himself about why the tradition was created in the first place and what purpose it actually serves. This tradition holds its significance even though there is no valid proof that stoning someone actually helps them with their crops and their food rations. And the civilians don’t even bother to question it either solely because there has always been a lottery.
The second part of human nature that she writes about is selfishness. When Bill Hutchinson ends up with the slip of paper that determines that his family was chosen, he was asked if there were any other households in the Hutchinsons. That means if he has any sons that were married, their households would also be under the Hutchinson name. In the traditional nuclear family, the household has the same last name as the father. Tessie Hutchinson quickly interjects by mentioning her older daughter’s family and that they should “take their chance” as well. Mr. Summers responds with one of the rules of the lottery that states that a daughter draws with the husband’s family. Tessie knows what the lottery is and what it entails so her attempting to bring in her daughter shows selfishness. She would rather give the death wish to her daughter’s household and have them gamble for their lives instead of having to gamble her own.