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Acts Of Violence And Brutality Illustrated In Jackson's The Lottery And Hurston's Sweat

1622 words - 6 pages

From the beginning of time, human nature has lent itself to violence and brutality. You see evidence of this as you read the news, or watch television. You might have been, or will be, the victim of this dark side of human nature. Looking back to the children of Adam and Eve, Cain killed his brother, Abel, marking, as I heard in a theology class, what many theologies claim as “the paradigm for conflict and violence.” Throughout our readings in The Story and It’s Writer: An Introduction to Short Fiction, we have seen many episodes of violence and brutality, ranging from torment to ritualistic murder. What do these acts represent within each story? In examining “The Lottery” by Shirley Jackson, and comparing it to “Sweat” by Zora Neale Hurston, I will illustrate how the acts of violence and brutality that we have read about represent deeper issues within society, specifically male dominance and female oppression.
I will begin with a brief background of each story. “The Lottery” by Shirley Jackson, is narrated in a third-person, objective point of view. Published in The New Yorker on June 28, 1948, “The Lottery is “Jackson’s best-known work, often anthologized, dramatized, and televised” (364). Jackson states, “I supposed, I hoped, by setting a particularly brutal ancient rite in the present and in my own village, to shock the story’s readers with a graphic dramatization of the pointless violence and general inhumanity in their own lives” (364). “Sweat” by Zora Neale Hurston is narrated in a third-person, limited omniscient point of view. Written in 1926, and published in 1927 in The Eatonville Anthology along with stories by several other writers, “Sweat” was one of two stories “that first brought Hurston’s work to the attention of a national audience” (354). Now that I have explained a little of the background, I will begin to analyze the violence in each story, along with what I believe it represents. In comparing the acts of violence and what they represent in these two stories, I feel it’s important to summarize the events that lead up to the violence.
Jackson’s “The Lottery” begins with a description of a clear and sunny day in June. The narrations describe the activities of the village residents, each activity done as cheerfully as if it were a town picnic, the same as the years prior. If you look closer into the description of the activities, and the character’s involved in them, you will see a division of gender that is stereotypical. The boys gathered stones, protecting the pile “against the raids of the other boys,” while the girls stood to the side, “talking amongst themselves” (365). This reminds me of the “boys will be boys” comments that our society has used to explain away the rowdiness of boys in contrast to the mild manners that most girls present with. The story moves on to describe the activities of the men and women, in much the same way. The men are standing around talking about “planting and rain, tractors and taxes”...

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