Blind Obedience Exposed in The Lottery
The annual ritualistic stoning of a villager in Shirley Jackson's "The Lottery" parallels tradition in American culture. This paper will inform the reader of the effect tradition has on characters in the short story "The Lottery" and how traditions still strongly influence people's lives in america.
Christian weddings hold many traditions and superstitions that seemingly defy logic. Although most couples no longer have arranged marriages or dowries, fathers still give their daughters away during the services. The bride and groom do not see each other before the ceremony, fearing that bad luck might come their way. A friend scolded me because I had originally planned to marry at the top of the hour, and told me I should change it "just to be safe". Society continues to hold these traditions and superstitions very dear because of cultural influences and the possibility of bad things happening. In Shirley Jackson's short story "The Lottery", the annual ritualistic stoning of a villager parallels the traditions inherent in American culture.
The black box is a source symbol of tradition for the townspeople. The original box wore out many years ago, and a new box was built from pieces of the old. This reflects customs in our own society. For example, knights used to greet each other by raising the faceplate on their helmets. Today military officers greet and dismiss each other by saluting, which symbolizes the knights raising and lowering their faceplates. Even though modern soldiers do not wear suits of armor, part of the knightly ritual still exists. Using the box as a symbol, Jackson shows how parts of traditions are sometimes lost over time by handing down information, beliefs, and customs from one generation to the next. Although "the villagers had forgotten the ritual and lost the original box, they still remembered to use stones" to kill the forgetful woman (Jackson 322).
Not only do people use bits and pieces of tradition; sometimes the meaning or purpose of a tradition is lost altogether. In carrying out the lottery, "the people had done it so many times that they only half listened to the directions" (Jackson 319). The villagers do not remember why the lottery first took place and now merely act it out through repetition. They remember some aspects of the ritual but are not definite about how accurate their memories are. Some think that the lottery official should stand a certain way when he sings the chant, and others that he should "walk among the people" (Jackson 317). A good example of this in our society is Thanksgiving. Today people celebrate the Thanksgiving holiday much differently than they did 400 years ago. When the...