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The Lottery Themes


The Lottery Themes

The list and analysis of the novel The Lotto by Shirley Jackson. Historical background of some primary styles of the story and their metaphorical and philosophical significance.

The Lotto composed by Shirley Jackson combines the main characteristics of feminist literature, dystopia and social drama. It shows us a serene town in the countryside that looks so normal and quiet and after that begins to gradually reveal its dark trick– something that at the start seems just a harmless routine like Christmas or Thanksgiving day. The evil portrayed in the ritual of Lottery game doesn’t have any meaning and any purpose, it is very mundane. We see that the victim is cheered and motivated to be an excellent sport by the rest of the townsfolk. No family ties, friendship or simple human grace work during the Lotto: the victim stops being a mom, sister, daughter or pal and ends up being a scapegoat that needs to be eliminated in a gruesome and painful way.

The manner in which individuals are “improving” the routine, like using paper rather of wood chips and the genuine pride they feel about it, claiming that they made the Lottery more civilized, horrifies the readers. They are entirely (intentionally or mistakenly) missing out on the bottom line: stoning the victim to death. This part can’t be civilized in any way, however it is the only part the residents of the town feel comfortable with.

The Lottery game may advise us about the popular scary plot where a relatively tranquil town is engaged into the dark routine of fertility that requires bloody sacrifice, but this novel is much deeper. The accent isn’t on the horrors of the routine itself, but on the reality that it is routine, without any spiritual sense, with no sense at all– just something that became a great way to spend the day and honor the customs.

The polite and respected people who become the mindless crowd and after that back make us think if anybody of us is capable of devoting such atrocities if the social requirements mark it as standard.

Society and Class

In The Lotto the previously mentioned ritual of Lottery is an extremely social ritual. The new members of the society are raised with the idea that stoning one of your next-door neighbors to death is a perfectly normal thing to do, if it is done on a specific day of the year. Shirley Jackson advises us to think about the amount of customs we mindlessly comply with in society not even asking ourselves if they still have any sense.

Another aspect of the Lotto is that it clearly shows the social division. In spite of it seems that anybody can become the brand-new victim, so there are no clear class differences, however there is another division that plays its part. Luck. The unlucky ones seem to be guilty of being unfortunate and the ugliest case of victimblaming is indicated there.

Some critics believe that the paper lottery game tickets that replace wooden ones symbolize cash or other papers the contemporary society value. We ended up being modern-day, we substituted gold, guarantees and other things with paper and credit cards, however we hardly ever believe what lies behind that paper and what we are really keeping in our hands. In the context of The Lotto the paper means life or death but everyone takes it too simple for the real understanding of this reality.

Banality of Evil

The term “the banality of evil” wasn’t created by Shirley Jackson, really she didn’t even know about it. At first this term was presented throughout the trial of Adolf Eichmann, a Nazi officer who set up the execution of numerous Jews, however defended himself stating that he was just following orders and didn’t feel hate for them. The banality of evil is not only doing evil as a mundane action. It is likewise not acknowledging evil, treating it like any other action, since evil is obscured by totally genuine instructions.

In the setting of “The Lottery” this is precisely the case. The townsfolk are usually good people, they like each other and cohabitate like great neighbors, they are keeping an ancient custom that was offered to them by their ancestors, so they do not believe they are evil because of it. They just do the same things their parents and grandparents did. The minor ramification that they undoubtedly are evil remains in portrayal of Delacroix family, who behaves extremely Nazi-like with all the theories of racial purity and the sensation of supremacy.

Even prior to the stoning, right before the choosing of the victim, the people chat delicately. The reality that a person of them will quickly be eliminated by the rest does not trouble them. They even discuss the evening meal which is excellent and worthwhile to finish stoning as quickly as possible.

The town in general and its inhabitants are described extremely vaguely. Each of them is an everyman that might look like any of our neighbors or associates. They are normal people, they just consider killing others typical if it is carried out in an appropriate method.


Conformity is really important theme in The Lotto, though it’s not very prominent. The town is isolated from the rest of the world, so all its residents are practically a closed neighborhood. The brand-new kids who are born in the town don’t see any good example except the one that exists there. They share the same experience and their morals are formed in a similar way: stoning individuals is great, it is an ancient tradition they can be happy with.

The conformity is something that holds people together during the routine. We see just one family, the Adamses, who make a minor effort to end the custom, but their voice is too not sure and they are quickly silenced by the viewpoint of the majority. They accept this viewpoint to stay together with the remainder of the group.

Tessie Hutchinson, the lead character of the story does demonstration, when her family is chosen in the very first illustration. She reacts as the typical individual would, and it appears that she is the only sane person in all the town. Even her family doesn’t reveal any sadness or fear, understanding that a person of them will be completely killed soon.

When condemned, Tessie attempts to speak in her defence, declaring that the lottery game is insanity and they are killers– but even her husband shuts her up and seems to be embarrassed of her. The conformity to the group in this town is a lot more important than the household bonds, love or anything else.

We see individuals happily assisting each other to kill Tessie, they are even appreciating kids, giving them location to get involved too. The brand-new generation of conformists sees the way the grownups act and is prepared to follow their path.

Custom and Ritual

The customs and rituals are the effective tool to glue the society together. If in the ancient times individuals performing the routine were waiting for a specific outcome, like rain, recovery or great harvest, nowadays it is primarily the method to unify the group. The ritual of Lottery went the same method, becoming the amusement that connects individuals. Once it also was a fertility routine, one of the primal ones that needed blood of the victim to “share” it with the soil, so that it can thank people with the rich harvest. And now it became something like Christmas or Thanksgiving day for the town.

The townsfolk value their custom quite. Old Man Warner even reveal concerns that the town would come down into the primitive method of living without it, portraying it as an achievement of civilization. The rest of the people likewise praise the ritual, boasting how modern and up-to-date they made it, substituting the wood chips with paper and including some nice new customs like a common meal and exchange of greetings and presents.

But while the story relaxes we see that the tradition has no significance at all. Nobody keeps in mind when and why it started and no one (other than the Adamses, who are quickly silenced) wishes to end it. Nobody knows the history of the ritual, no one thinks of its meaning. The custom exists for the sake of itself and this is the thing that offers it limitless power over the minds of individuals. No one can even picture their life without it.


The society of The Lottery is hypocritical to its core– at least from our viewpoint. The loyalty, feelings and bonds indicate nothing when it pertains to the conformity to the group. So the hypocrisy is considered a virtue in the town if it is linked to the routine of Lotto. But, in every other aspect they are completely normal and understandable people: they despise what we abhor and applaud what we applaud. So, a concern arises: can the mindset to lottery game victims be thought about hypocrisy and can the actions of Tessie’s husband be thought about betrayal, if the Lottery game is so deeply etched into the minds of the townsfolk that they can experience some shifts in their psychics? Can they assess what they are doing seriously?

For us the routine is horrifying and mad, but the villagers have seen it for ages and generations. They matured with it and got used to it to the degree that their conscience treats it as something natural. The most popular defenders of the Lottery are the Delacroix household, who happily say that they have the right and they are entitled to murder a member of their neighborhood.


The households in the town are perfectly normal, possibly, even a bit too normal. They are extremely typical, patriarchal and regular. This makes the contrast in between the time of the Lotto and the rest of the days even more sharp and painful. But when the family from which the victim would be selected, is picked, belonging to this household (or coming from other, luckier ones) becomes a thing of huge value. The society now is extremely mindful to this family, watching it with curiosity. During the Lotto all the family bonds are destroyed and the chosen victim stops being a moms and dad, a child, a sibling or a lover. The member of the family who liked them only yesterday, actively participate in stoning them to death.

However after the ritual we see that the regular emotions return to the people. Family members grieve their dead like they weren’t the ones who killed them. The social significance of coming from a chosen family is entirely removed from the psychological bonds that are considered individual matter and are encouraged and valued in the town society.

Being a part of the condemned household may be considered of belonging to the family of the oppressed minority. They might be excellent individuals no one really dislikes, however they are also the members of (any ethnic and racial group or class), so someone has to be killed for good. Absolutely nothing individual. We see how much the social part dominates: the members of Tessie’s household might grieve her only after happily taking part in her murder and they do this wholeheartedly.

Violence and Ruthlessness

Physical violence is the prominent The Lottery theme. We see the crowd delighting in stoning one of their next-door neighbors, the civilized community develops into a wild and unmanageable crowd. The regular people casually become beasts each year, they experience the minute of the “hivemind” where the personality suggests nothing and everyone follows the single desire of the whole crowd. And they take pleasure in and commemorate it.

Still, there is another aspect of violence present in the book. It is psychological violence. Tessie is erased from existence while she is picked as a victim. Her partner doesn’t try to protect her, her next-door neighbors are ready to eliminate her and do it for their amusement. She is un-personed in the most Orwellian sense. The horrible paradox is that just a few readers acknowledge it as ruthlessness also, overwhelmed with the physical symptom of violence.

The conformity of the society, where nobody dares to question the Lotto and is ready to accept the viewpoint of the bulk is plainly revealed by Jackson as the primary reason such violence became possible at all. The people decrease their personal obligation, and the important things turn very ugly.

Female Identity

The lead character of the story is a woman called Tessie Hutchinson and she is all at once a victim of the Lottery game. The female identity in The Lottery game is extremely essential style since of numerous factors. The very first one is that the Lottery game itself is a degraded fertility ritual where a scapegoat must be sacrificed to make the land fertile. However fertility is a quality connected with women and females in basic, due to the fact that they bear kids. The Earth is always a goddess, so compromising a woman makes more sense and develops an impression of equivalent exchange.

The second reason is the type of society depicted by Shirley Jackson. It is conservative and patriarchal, where the male members of the families are meant to safeguard ladies and care about their security. But in the end, just before the stoning, we see Tessie’s other half, who silences her, shutting down her strong defence speech and providing her as a victim to the crowd. It is both the symbol of the oppressed ladies in the patriarchal society who has no right to represent themselves and the dreadful infraction of the essential laws of the patriarchal society itself. This point is enhanced by the author by taking the surname Hutchinson after Anne Hutchinson, the American spiritual dissenter, who rebelled after the unjust trial and excommunication from the church. Tessie experiences everything that a female victim normally does: victimblaming, betrayal and ignorance from the society who prefers to pretend that nothing bad happened to stop thinking that they might be next.

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