The Ugly Side Of Tradition: Lessons Learned From The Lottery. The Analysis of the Lottery Essay Example


The short story The Lottery by Shirley Jackson illustrates a small village carrying out a yearly tradition that seems innocent and harmless at first, but takes a dark twist. While the story gradually progresses the reader is able to pick up details that this lottery might not actually be something you would want to win. This assumption was confirmed when the lottery winner was stoned to death by the people of the village. This event showcases the absence of morals in the village and is responsible for invoking the reader’s feelings of confusion and anger towards the villagers. The Lottery causes readers to realize what the story is truly about, mob mentality, human cruelty, ignorance and the ugly side of blindly following tradition.

Firstly, human cruelty has an important presence in The Lottery, an example of this is shown from examining this quote, “Mr. Graves took the child's hand and removed the folded paper from the tight fist and held it while little Dave stood next to him and looked up at him wonderingly” (Jackson 106). This particular line stands out because of how the villagers are forcing a small child to take part in drawing for his potential death. What makes it even darker is when the child looks up at Mr. Graves in wonder, this shows that the child does not know what is happening nor does he know what is about to happen is wrong. 

It shows how without any remorse for the loss of human life, these village folk stone one of their own to death every year for no reason except keeping the tradition alive. Furthermore, this is an example of how people take interest in violent things whether they consciously know it or not. For example, in ancient Rome there would be gladiator battles to the death with thousands of people watching in the stadiums. Gladiator battles had no purpose except entertaining the bloodthirsty crowds, similar to how the stoning in the lottery had no purpose but to keep alive a pointless tradition. This dark nature is portrayed even by our tastes in visual media mediums, some of the most popular movies and shows such as Star Wars, Game of Thrones and Marvel movies center around violent conflict. With that being said it doesn’t necessarily mean that anyone who likes these movies and shows is evil such as the villagers in this story, but it shows that violence never has left the nature of mankind. To be blunt, the villagers in this short story showcased their brutal side of human nature by participating in the lottery and accepting that one of them would be stoned to death for no known reason.

Secondly, the mob mentality present in this story must be noted. The villagers were refusing to think rationally and instead followed the flow of the crowd. This sort of mob mentality was seen being reinforced in the story when Mr. Hutchinson, the husband of the lottery winner forcefully takes the marked slip of paper from her hands and shows the entire crowd. In this instance Mr. Hutchinson didn’t even stop to think that what they were doing was wrong even while knowing his wife is about to be murdered, he was swept up in the flow of things and didn’t want to disrupt the village’s irrational tradition. This mob conformity in the village can also be seen being reinforced when pebbles are given to little Davey, Mrs.Hutchinson’s son, so that he can throw stones at his mother and play a part in her murder. This sort of action reinforces the mob mentality by making it so that everyone participates in the murder. No specific person has to take the blame for her murder, even her own family members bear responsibility. This results in everyone ignoring their guilt which in turn causes them to not realize what they did as wrong.

Another thing to point out is the ignorance and selfishness displayed by the villagers in The Lottery. Mrs. Hutchinson, the story’s victim, did not speak up about the wrongness of the lottery until she was the one who was picked, “It isn’t fair” (Jackson 107). These last words are exactly what she should have said before the lottery commenced, instead she only began screaming about the unfairness and cruelty of the tradition when her family was picked. Meanwhile the ones doing the stoning seem to show no sympathetic feelings towards Mrs. Hutchinson, instead they get on with the stoning in unison with no protests to the decision. Hence showing how important of a life lesson putting yourself in another person’s shoes is. When people begin to understand another person’s situation by thinking from their point of view, they begin to understand sympathy, a feeling that all these villagers were lacking during the events of The Lottery. 

 Lastly, something important to bring to attention is the symbolism of the black box in relation to tradition. “The black box grew shabbier each year; by now it was no longer completely black but splintered badly along one side to show the original wood color, and in some places faded or stained” (Jackson 101). This piece of text does a great job of symbolizing the village’s dying tradition, the black box is getting old and fading in color meanwhile the tradition is also getting old and fading away from nearby villages. Yet this village continues to cling on to an old and weathered black box, refusing to let go of their tradition. In addition, this is counterintuitive in a sense as they let go of some of the other parts of the tradition such as the salute before drawing and the wood chips being used which are now replaced by slips of paper. It highlights how illogical this whole tradition is, they let go of certain parts of the tradition yet for some reason still continue other parts. 

The Lottery by Shirley Jackson does a fantastic job showcasing humanity’s cruel and dark side. The story’s exemplification of mob conformity along with it’s example of blindly following tradition helps the author establish her messages to the reader. This story delivers it’s impactful messages using symbolism and dialogue that conveys the characters lack of morals and sympathy towards the victim of the annual lottery. It is evident that a person must first understand what they’re doing, why they’re doing it and the consequences of their actions to avoid causing tragedy such as the one shown in this story. Otherwise there will be people that end up like Mrs. Hutchinson who only questions decisions when it’s too late. 


 

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