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Analyzing Tradition As A Theme In Shirley Jackson’s “The Lottery”

1020 words - 5 pages

Throughout history, tradition has been considered sacred. Throughout Shirley Jackson’s short story “The Lottery,” the characters closely follow the tradition of a yearly lottery within the village. To these villagers, the tradition of the lottery is very important. This is most likely due to the fact that there is no one who would even dare to mess with it, because the villagers are all too afraid to say anything and cause a fuss. The traditions of the village lottery bring the town together, even though the outcome is unfortunate for the winner. Jackson uses tradition in the story to create meaning in the characters and their lottery. The tradition of the lottery, blindly following the lottery rules, and the occasional lack of tradition as a whole make Jackson’s “The Lottery” an effective short story.
The tradition of the lottery is a very important part of life for the people of the village. Even though some of the original traditions have been lost over time, they continue to try and follow what they still have as closely as possible. For example, Mr. Summers asks Janey if there is someone else who could draw for her, even though “Mr. Summers and everyone else in the village knew the answer perfectly well, it was the business of the official of the lottery to ask such questions formally” (392). The people of the village are acquainted with each other, but when it comes to tradition, personal affairs don’t matter. This seriousness is also exemplified through the black box and how “Mr. Summers spoke frequently to the villagers about making a new [one], but no one liked to upset even as much tradition as was represented by the black box” (391). The people of the village are very cautious about changing any sort of tradition, which shows that they respect the practices of the lottery.
The way the villagers are dedicated to their traditions without even knowing why relates to the overall meaning of the story, which suggests the underlying robotic nature in humans. Even though the villagers are very serious and careful when it comes to the lottery, they tend to blindly follow their traditions. The people of the village are afraid to question anything about the lottery, so year after year, they go through the same motions without even knowing why they do it. The villagers’ blind acceptance of the lottery has allowed yearly murder to become part of their town fabric. As they have demonstrated through their yearly submission to the lottery without argument, they feel powerless to even try to change anything, although there is no one forcing them to keep things the same. Old Man Warner is so loyal to the tradition that he fears the villagers will return to primitive times if they stop holding the yearly lottery. These ordinary people, who have just come from their work or homes and will soon return for supper, easily kill the lottery winner when the yearly drawing is finished. They don’t have a reason for doing it other than the...

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