Symbolism and Setting in The Lottery by Shirley Jackson
?The Lottery? by Shirley Jackson is a short story that without the symbolism of its characters, would amount to little more than an odd tale about a stoning. However, because
of what each character represents and the way the setting helps to magnify those
representations, it becomes a short story that is anything but short of meaning.
The first character is probably the most obviously
symbolic character of the story. Every word that leaves Old Man Warner?s
Mouth reeks of tradition. He never stops criticizing new ideas about the lottery, the way it is run, or complaining about how things have changed for the worst, etc., etc. When Mr. Adams tells him that the residents of a neighboring village are considering doing away with the lottery, he says they are ?a pack of crazy fools.?
After the Hutchinson family draws for the second time and he can hear people whisper about who they hope drew the spot, he is quick to point out ?It?s not the way it used to be, people aren?t the way they used to be.?
He probably reminds most readers of an older person he or she once knew always saying, ?Well in my day we did things differently?..? and ? What is wrong with kids these days? Why when I was a kid if I did that??.?
He is clinging to tradition, even some that are no longer observed, and totally unwilling to let go of the ones that are still practiced, in spite of how ludicrous they might be. It has always been done that way before so why change things now?
In ?the Lottery,? old Man Warner symbolizes everything that is wrong with tradition and really forces a person to consider some of the ridiculous things that we as members of society have done and or continue to do ?because it has always been done that way.?
Mr. Summers and Mr. Graves both symbolize authority and how it can be used to coerce the masses. While neither Mr. Graves nor Mr. Summers are tyrannical, awe inspiring, or otherwise persuasive leaders, the townspeople follow them. It is very probable that if the two of them proclaimed there would no longer be a lottery it would stop but they insist with the tradition. Unfortunately as is the case so often in reality, people follow them blindly, they are leaders in the community, they must know what they are doing right? When people fail to question their leadership, in reality, just as in ?The Lottery,? terrible things happen.
The other characters symbolize more the faults of individual humans rather than those of whole societies. The Hutchinson Family is both symbolic of internal faults that all humans have, such as cowardice and indifference.
Bill Hutchinson is apparently so scared of saying no to authority that he will not take the necessary steps to protect his family. As a matter of fact he aids them in the death of his wife by forcing her to show the black spot.
When a man is willing not just to stand by and watch as his wife is stoned to death but...