The Message Sent in “The Lottery”
The shock value of Shirley Jackson’s “The Lottery” is not only widely known, but also widely felt. Her writing style effectively allows the reader to pass a judgment on themselves and the society in which they live. In “The Lottery” Jackson is making a comparison to human nature. It is prominent in all human civilizations to take a chance as a source of entertainment and as this chance is taken, something is both won and lost.
As long as human civilization has existed, so has the idea of death or suffering, or taking a chance of death or suffering, as a form of entertainment. This can be traced back as far the day of the Roman gladiator, when an event was staged in a coliseum where people watched someone lose their life as a form of entertainment. Also, executions, once public, provide entertainment as they cause an inescapable excitement as an escape from the normal routine of daily life. This form of entertainment is displayed in “The Lottery” as the character Tessie Hutchinson is stoned in public because she won the town’s annual lottery and as the character Old Man Warner claims in the story, “There’s always been a lottery” (Jackson 275). People also take a chance of harming themselves for entertainment in event of drug usage or extreme sports. The townspeople harm themselves in “The Lottery” by harming another person. However, this form of entertainment can also take another form - scapegoating. The term scapegoating is the act of persecuting or segregating a similar group of people whom are different from the “norm” or what is commonly accepted. This has happened with many groups of minorities in the United States such as Jewish people, women, African Americans, and Asians. It even happens in present day America with groups such as homosexuals and now, after the tragedy in New York, with people from the Middle East. These examples make it hard to determine whether or not scapegoating is just part of human nature or if it is something created by man made ideas.
The main reason that people take chances and are entertained by chances is because something is won or gathered by these chances. The people in “The Lottery” gain many things in this story by killing a member of their town each year. First of all, they gain the comfort of tradition while at the same time break the normal routine of their daily lives. The town’s lottery gives them something to look forward to much like the town’s “square dances”, “teen-age club”, and “Halloween program” which are all conducted by the same member of the town, Mr. Summers (Jackson 272). Mr. Summer’s also conducts the annual lottery. Something else that is gained by the people of the town is the idea of...