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The Significance Of Tradition In The Lottery, By Shirley Jackson

1866 words - 7 pages

A clear sunny day immediately turns dark with a glimpse of a sinister surprise. Shirley Jackson’s “The Lottery” is a twisted tale that takes place midsummer in the early twentieth century. A small village of three hundred conducts a heinous ritual once a year which in consequence results in a loss of their community. Members of the village are reluctant to let go of the tradition of the lottery. Symbolism within “The Lottery” illustrates a transformation of the community values.

There are several glimpses of the future that are represented by symbols such as the black box. The black wooden box represents the darkness of death, and the condition of the box suggests a transition in thought of the villagers. The box becomes exposed when we see that “the black box brew shabbier each year; by now it was no longer completely black but splintered badly along one side to show the original wood color”(Jackson, 1). The color of the box is symbolic of death, since it is worn at funerals. Black also correlates to an evil presence, which is present throughout the story. The boxes form indicates that the villagers are beginning to evolve and develop. Helen Nebeker reveals that the age of this tradition may be much older than have thought with “its prehistoric origin is revealed in the mention of the original wood color” (102). The suggestion of a prehistoric origin displays the villager’s current mindset. They are tired and bored with this tradition. Some villagers are extremely irritated that this tradition must continue, but at the same time many people want the tradition to go on. The thought that the tradition is beginning to get old is implies when we see “the present box has been made from pieces of the original and is now blackened, faded and stained (with blood perhaps)” (Nebeker, 102). Nebeker is implying that the villager’s traditions are starting to change. Tradition at one point was spread through the word of mouth, and now it is spread through literature. The fact that the box is faded, stained and splintered demonstrates that the community is not caring for the box anymore. At one point they used to cherish the box, and now it is just present for tradition.

The black box represents a darkness which also has overcome the chips of wood. The chips of wood represent a time before literature was well developed suggesting a dark time. It is indicated that there has been a long awaited change from "slips of paper substituted for the chips of wood that had been used for generations" (Jackson, 2). This illustrates to the reader that it had take decades, possibly centuries to adopt the use of paper versus the traditional chips of wood. Another change in tradition shows their transforming views on the lottery. Nebeker is again referring to the older aspect of the box when "its prehistoric origin is revealed in the mention of the original wood color" (103). Here again it is indicated that this tradition has been around for many years. It is almost...

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