In "The Lottery" Shirley Jackson presents us with a shocking story guaranteed to outrage the reader. The author brings together the residents of a small village as they are gathered for an annual event referred to as the lottery. The families of the village are represented by their names on small pieces of paper, which are placed in a black box. The appointed townsperson oversees the drawing to determine who pulls the slip of paper that "wins" the drawing. The characters seem ordinary enough, and they appear to be pleasant mild people participating in an innocuous activity. There is a huge shock when the story turns violent. The peaceful village people are choosing which person in their community they are going to stone to death. "The Lottery" illustrates the danger and potential violence of a society that ignorantly follows a tradition without considering the harm they are causing.
There are many examples of society following violent traditions. A look at professional sports is a good example. In most sports it is a referees job to stop or restrain an athlete who tries to harm another athlete during the game. However, in the National Hockey League players frequently drop their gloves and engage in fistfights on the ice. The referees actually back away and allow the fighting to continue. I have often wondered why they would allow this kind of brutality. The answer is found in the kind of thinking represented in this story. In the story when someone remarks that some towns have given up their lottery's, an elderly old man called Old Man Warner, snorts and calls them "crazy fools and blames it on the young folks wanting to change everything" (81). He defends the tradition with one simple premise; "there has always been a lottery" (81). A lot of long time hockey fans defend fighting on the ice the same way, saying it has always been that way and now it is part of the game. There is a whole population of people that defend players beating on each other in the middle of a sports competition, on the mindless basis that it has always been that way.
People often point to tradition as the defense of objectionable violence. A timely example is seen with our country poised on the brink of war. No one denies that the war will cause the death of many innocent people. While many people are divided in their feelings about the war most people would agree that they feel bad about causing the death of innocents. Yet in a defense of a probable attack, people are pointing to the historical tradition of war as a rationalization. Older people in particular will point out that we fought and killed people in the World Wars and Korea and even Vietnam and the rationale follows that if it was o.k. then, it is acceptable now. Old man Warner took refuge in historical tradition when his name was called in the lottery and he moved forward saying " seventy-seventh year I have...