The Lottery by Shirley Jackson
I was watching an episode of “The Simpsons” on TV the other day, and there was a craze around town because the Springfield Lottery was up to 130 million dollars. Bookstores were selling out of Shirley Jackson’s “The Lottery”. Homer quickly threw the book into the fireplace when he realized that the book could not tell him how to win the lottery, that it was a book about time old traditions, barbaric, but still practiced nonetheless. If Homer had read the book, he would have discovered that Jackson was projecting a subtle message through the minor character of Old Man Warner that the human race can be quite feeble-minded when it comes to following others and outright ignorant when it comes to thinking for one’s self. She uses Old Man Warner because he clings to your memory above all the other minor characters. He is seen as the antagonist, and therefore commands attention, even to his limited role. You then think about him more than any other minor character, and the more you think about him, the more the message comes through. He symbolizes the sense of invincibility, distrust, fear, and eternal youth.
Being in his seventy-seventh lottery, Old Man Warner is separated from the rest of the town. He has beaten the Lottery seventy-seven times, and therefore holds a certain sense of invincibility, and that leads to his devotion to it. Maybe that’s how everyone feels. Since they’ve survived the Lottery, they have a respect for it, and see nothing wrong with keeping it. In fact, they find the notion of not having the lottery preposterous, just because everyone has always thought that, and they just go along with what everyone thinks. Maybe it’s not so much the aspect of survival that is addictive, but the sense of risk. It’s like sky-diving, or Russian Roulette. People do it all the time, knowing the risk they run. It’s the thrill of fear. The energetic adrenaline rush. Some people do drugs, others seek thrills, and a rare few hold a yearly lottery to decide who survives, and who doesn’t. It’s definitely a risk. And Old Man Warner has run this risk for seventy-six years. It’s very similar to those guys you see that have jumped out of a plane over a hundred times. People love to take risks. Jackson uses him to show the logical side to keeping the Lottery. She feels that it is a natural phenomenon, that people seek thrills, and that there is nothing wrong with that, and displays that through Warner.
“They do say,” Mr. Adams said to Old Man Warner, who stood next to him “that over in the North Village they’re talking of Giving up the Lottery.”
“Pack of crazy fools,” he said. “Listening to the young folks, nothing’s good enough for them. Next thing you know, they’ll be wanting to go back to living in caves, nobody work anymore, live that way for a while. Used to be a saying about “Lottery in June, corn be heavy soon”. There’s always been a lottery.
This last passage exemplifies...