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Prominent Themes in The Lottery


Shirley Jackson’s The Lottery game is a worrying parable that checks out the idea of ridiculous violence whilst featuring many other prominent themes. The short story revolves around a yearly lottery that a town holds to guarantee that “lottery in June, corn be heavy soon” (6 ). Appallingly, the winner of the lottery game continues to be stoned to death by their family and friends. The primary style in The Lotto is custom, stressing the requirement to question senseless rituals rather of blindly following them. Jackson likewise uses the “scapegoat” archetype as a theme when Terri Hutchinson is sacrificed to remove the rest of the towns’ sins. A similar stereotypical situation of death and rebirth is also shown in the narrative. Finally, the topic of violence and the human capability for evil is exposed as The Lottery game questions the villagers intrinsic requirement to collectively murder someone each year. Jackson utilizes a range of literary elements such as meaning and archetype to reveal these themes, creating an extremely compelling story.

The theme of custom in The Lottery game explores why practices such as the stoning ritual of the lottery game are accepted by the village just because “there’s always been a lotto” (6 ). Amy A. Griffin describes the development of the inhumane ritual, explaining: “At one point in the village’s history, the lottery represented a serious experience, and all who participated understood the extensive significance of the custom. But as time passed, the villagers started to take the ritual lightly. They endure it almost as robots– “stars” anxious to return to their mundane, workaday lives … However why do villagers hold on to custom when they no longer discover significance in the ritual? Carl Jung posits that even if one does not understand the meaning, the experience provides the “specific a location and an indicating the life of the generations” (188 ). The villagers for that reason feel obliged to continue this terrible custom (44 ).

The black box used in the lottery is a substantial symbol of tradition in the narrative. Each head of the family draws a slip of paper from the ancient box, which characterizes all of the evil and vicious actions that have occurred, as well as the killings that will continue until the custom is stopped. The truth that the community refused to do something as easy as developing a new box since, “No one liked to disturb even as much custom as was represented by the black box” (2) exhibits the villagers fear of breaking traditions.

Old Guy Warner, the oldest male in the town also signifies the custom that exists in the narrative. He has seen seventy-seven lotteries that were promoted ceremoniously and is annoyed about talks of ending the routine– “Absolutely nothing but trouble because … pack of young fools” (6 ). Similar to the other 3 hundred members of the village, Old Man Warner just reason for murdering somebody when a year is because it has always happened. Jackson utilizes a range of symbols to reveal the threats of following routines blindly, illustrating how evil practices or ideas are accepted without rationale simply because they are thought about tradition.

In The Lottery, Jackson makes use of archetypes to construct on styles such as the scapegoating that happens when Tessi Hutchinson is stoned to death. Carl Jung describes archetypes as “complexes of experience that come upon us like fate” (30 ), and this can be experienced through rituals such as the yearly lotto, which was carried out like a square dance or club conference. The archetype of “life-death cycle” also supports the theme since the village kills somebody so their crops will grow healthy. As Griffin states in her critical essay, “the picnic-like atmosphere betrays the major repercussion of the lotto, for like the seed, a sacrificial person should likewise be buried to bring forth life” (44 ). In The Lotto, this sacrificial individual is Tessi Hutchinson, a woman who was living wicked and not surprisingly had the fate as the village’s scapegoat. Tessi Hutchinson arrived late to the lottery game and sarcastically informs the town “Wouldn’t have me leave m’meals in the sink, now, would you?”( 4) The villagers feel justified in killing their scapegoat; by stoning one wicked person each year, they are able to clean themselves and have good crops. When all the males open their slips of paper the females start thinking who will be compromised, “‘Is it the Dunbars?’ ‘Is it the Watsons?’ (7 ). Their speculations demonstrate that they think the people living in sin will be chosen– Clyde Dunbar’s wife had to draw for him, and the Watson household had no dad to draw for them. Jackson contemplates society’s requirement for a scapegoat– by compromising someone like Tessi Hutchinson, the villagers see it as a deserving penalty, validating murder.

The style with the strongest presence in The Lottery is society’s propensity toward violence. Even though the stoning is a brutal act, what makes it so scary is the fact that the town is depicted is very peaceful and civilized right until Tessi Hutchinson is stoned to death by loved ones. During the lotto the kids “got into boisterous play” (1 ), while the males were “speaking of planting and rain, tractors and taxes” (2) and the women “exchanged little bits of gossip” (2 ). Jackson makes it apparent that the villagers are desensitized to the violence of their routine. “The entire lotto took less than two hours, so it might begin at ten o’clock in the early morning and still be through in time to enable the villagers to get home for noon supper” (1 ). Individuals in the community are afraid to go against the lotto and rather take part in gruesome killings of innocent members of their town before going home to eat lunch, feeling more relief than remorse. Griffin states, “the base actions exhibited in groups (such as the stoning of Mrs. Hutchinson) do not occur on the specific level, for here such action would be deemed murder. On the group level people classify their heinous acts just as ritual” (45 ).

Although the ritual has ended up being meaningless to the villagers, the violence is still the only thing they can keep in mind for specific. “Although the villagers had actually forgotten the ritual and lost the initial black box, they still kept in mind to use stones” (9 ). “The Lottery game” powerfully examines the ability of violence in humans. Mrs. Delacroix and Mrs. Hutchinson appear to be very good pals, nonetheless when Tessi Hutchinson was completely being stoned “Mrs. Delacroix picked a stone so large she needed to select it up with both hands” (9) to assist kill her good friend. Another example of this is Mrs. Hutchinson’s boy Davy being offered a few pebbles and anticipated to help murder his mom. In addition, it is only when Tessi Hutchinson ends up being a victim of the violence that she starts to oppose it, shouting “It isn’t fair, it isn’t best” (9 ). Jackson conveys a stunning photo of senseless violence in mankind and instills the concept that society is accepting of violence until it ends up being individual.

The Lotto checks out numerous universal styles such as the damaging nature of following traditions, scapegoating, and the acceptance violence through a variety of literary elements such as importance and archetypes, as a result creating an incredibly compelling story. It worries the importance of questioning the motives for doing something instead of blindly adhering. The Lotto also freely checks out the inherent need to keep traditions and society’s requirement for “civilized routines”. It shows not only why society has actually always required a scapegoat, however likewise how humans have the ability to validate nearly anything in order to feel no regret. The short story raises many questions relating to harmful routines of humanity, and the approval of violence in everyday life. The themes that exist in The Lotto are remarkably thought-provoking and will stay appropriate and universal permanently.

Works Mentioned

Griffin, Amy A. Jackson’s The Lottery (Important Essay). The Explicator, 1999.

Jackson, Shirley. The Lottery game, The New Yorker, 1948.

Jung, Carl G. The Archetypes and the Collective Unconscious. Princeton UP, 1968

Kosenko, Peter. A Reading of Shirley Jackson’s The Lottery. New Orleans Review, 1985 http://www.netwood.net/~kosenko/jackson.html

Nebeker, Helen E. The Lottery Game: Symbolic Trip de Force. American Literature, 1974

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