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Ticket To Death In The Lottery, By Shirley Jackson

1161 words - 5 pages

“Stop!” the German soldier called. The young boy stood stunned in his tracks. He couldn't breathe, couldn't see clearly, couldn't move for fear of being shot. The German too, was young and confused. His leaders had told him to do away with anyone that wasn't Aryan. His finger trembled uncertainly on the trigger. There was no other option, and yet there was no reason to hurt the petrified boy who paled before him. The boy, doomed to death from a variable he could not control, gazed into the German's eyes, and saw the same confusion and helplessness echoed there. The boy attempted to voice his fears, his desire to run unscathed. The soldier's eyes widened at the Jew's gaping mouth and made a hasty decision, frightened of the repercussions that would follow disobedience. A mere two seconds later, the boy lay on the floor with eyes that were wide open but could not see, just another of the six million Jews that were murdered irrationally during the Holocaust. Similarly, Shirley Jackson's short story "The Lottery" (1948) depicts the proceedings of a ritual, called the lottery, in a tiny village of a mere three hundred people who were unable to object to their barbaric customs. The “winner” of the lottery is stoned to death by the rest of the village. Jackson used the brutal events portrayed in the story as a satire of human nature to commit violence without reason. In "The Lottery," the primitive behavior of the villagers satirizes the consequences that arise when societies blindly follow the traditions that they inherited without question. However, Jackson also depicts the troubles that sprout from challenging ancient traditions, creating a paradox.
The fact that the lottery is passed on, regardless of its violent nature, reflects human nature to engage in violence without motive. The tradition of the lottery in this story is an example of a pointless act of violence, satirizing similar occasions in history, a key example being the Holocaust. In the entire story, not once is the reader given a reason for the lottery. In fact, Old Man Warner, who has attended seventy-seven lotteries in his lifetime, states that “there's always been a lottery,” (Jackson 742) but never directs the reader to a reasonable purpose for the lottery. However, Old Man Warner demands the respect of the community as he is the oldest man in the village, and as the oldest, he is considered the wisest. Another reason that this tradition is useless is the lack of a reason to stone the person that is chosen to die. The victim is completely random, it could have even been little Dave, an infant. Killing another human without reason is a barbaric act; yet it happens all the time in modern society. Most conflicts that occur have little to no reason behind them, some arising over minute differences in different cultures. Usually, many citizens do notice certain flaws in their society, but often they chose not to object because they are scared of their authoritative figures.

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