The Main Themes In The Lottery By Shirley Jackson
The Lottery by Shirley Jackson is a short story was written in 1948 takes place in a village square of a town on June 27th. She helps raise attention to the engrained evil and random inherent brutality, the book takes the classic theme of man’s inhumanity to man. The major theme under discussion is a capitalist society masquerading as an egalitarian one. There is a clear indication of a favored gender that holds a higher status in this society however, at the same time all members behave like this is a normal thing because they are adapted and conformed to such traditions.
In the paragraph beginning: “The lottery was conducted … While Mr. Summers stirred up the papers inside. ” (Jackson 352) many different events that occur in this village, from square dances to teenage clubs to Halloween programs are all hosted by a man named Mr. Summers. He also seems to be the organizer of the annual lottery event as well. As he walks through the crowd of villagers, he points out his lateness by stating “Little late today, folks. ” (Jackson 352) As Mr. Summers makes his way to the center of the square, he asks for someone to give him a hand. “There was a hesitation before two men, Mr. Martin and his oldest son, Baxter, came forward to hold the box steady on the stool while Mr. Summers stirred up the papers inside it. ” (Jackson 352) The Martins are the town grocers. While everyone else avoids the lottery, they seem to want to be involved in it. This type of behaviour demonstrates that not everyone is afraid of this terrible event and some even enjoy it. Little Bobby Martin seemed to really like the lottery. “Bobby Martin had already stuffed his pockets full of stones, and the other boys soon followed his example…” (Jackson 351) This attitudes shows that he gets too much pleasure out of the lottery or may be too young to fully understand what is going on. It could be a game to him and he is just following after the actions of his father. A possible reason why children are allowed to take part in the stoning is to teach them from young how this town operates and to teach them the tradition that they should carry out in the future for generations to come. The Martins seem to have a different perspective on the lottery compared to the rest of the village and it is people like them that make it possible to keep this disturbing tradition alive for so many years.
In the paragraph beginning: “Well, now,” Mr. Summers said soberly … Glad to see your mother’s got a man to do it. (Jackson 354 – 355) Mr. Summers seems to be in a rush to call the names during the lottery. First, he is late to the event and even after he arrives, Mr. Summers is described as resting his hand “carelessly on the black box” (Jackson 353) When the ritual begins Mr. Summers speaks and says “Well, now. . . guess we better get started, get this over with, so’s we can go back to work. ” (Jackson 354) After everyone has drawn from the black box, Mr. Summers again shows a sense of urgency when he says “. . . now we’ve got to hurry a little more to get done. ” (Jackson 357) Afterwards, when it is revealed that Tessie’s slip of paper reveals the black mark which indicates she will be the victim of the stoning, Mr. Summers expresses urgency once again as he says “Let’s finish quickly. ” (Jackson 359) Deep down, it is obvious that Mr. Summers does not fully condone this annual ritual. He sees everything that is wrong with this event however, chooses not to voice his opinion. Since the lottery is a ritual that has been happening for so long, he does not want to be the one to dispute it now. He tries to rush the process as much as he can so that it can end and he can put it out of his mind for another year.
While analyzing the story as a whole, there are many elements that showcase the major theme of this short story. Various points especially within the two passages chosen, demonstrate how this village functions as a capitalist society. The lottery is an old tradition that speaks to the unbending nature of a capitalist society. This ritual has been around for so long that people no longer know where or how it started but continue to practice it annually. The citizens within the society are made to accept that the lottery is law based and anybody stands an equal chance of choice. There is a chance however, that Mr. Summers knows the paper with the black dot and his family is secure from being stoned during the lottery. In this way, it can be said that the lottery is an election for the powerful but a random selection for regular individuals. The woman is this village are also low in status with no power. When it comes to picking for the lottery, only the men in their families can pick which is demonstrated in the second passage analyzed. “. . . Good fellow, Jack,” and “Glad to see your mother’s got a man to do it. ” (Jackson 355) Just like in a capitalist society, individuals have no control and have no say about what goes on in the village. That type of authority is left to the powerful few.
Therefore, it is safe to conclude that villagers just practiced the lottery because of higher authority who dictate what happens. This society oppresses the weak and practices outdated rituals to keep a discriminative social order. Nobody took any steps to understand the meaning and goal behind this practice. It seemed normal out of habit and that is the sad reality of just how cruel and unjust people can be.
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