Tradition Or Cruelty In Shirley Jackson's The Lottery

1214 words - 5 pages

In our society we have many traditions. These traditions all have certain meanings behind them; however, many of those meanings tend to be lost or forgotten. The holiday of Thanksgiving was originally a celebration to commemorate the arrival of the pilgrims in the new world and their first interactions with the Native Americans. So then why is it still celebrated today? There is no actual purpose in today’s society to observe this custom.  It has just continued to be observed because of past traditions.  There is no logical reason to continue this fête, as it holds little or no value.  With the passage of time the actual reasons have been lost or distorted, such as in the case of Shirley Jackson’s “The Lottery.”
Shirley Jackson’s short story, “The Lottery,” focuses on an outdated tradition, similar to the holiday of Thanksgiving; the town in her story observes a custom which holds little or no reasonable purpose in society. The lottery is performed every year, and the winner – instead of winning money or a prize – gets stones thrown at them by the other town members.  What is the purpose of this lottery?  There existed an actual purpose behind it; it was used as a ritual to influence the growing season, but in the modern time period in which Jackson sets the story, this purpose is unclear.  The tradition is old-fashioned and has lost all explanation behind its use.
Those who participate can only remember certain parts of the ritual of the lottery, and even then, these parts are not performed the same.  Other parts have been completely done away with and forgotten.
At one time, some people remembered, there had been a recital of some sort, performed by the official of the lottery, a perfunctory, tuneless chant that had been rattled off duly each year...but years and years ago this part of the ritual had been allowed to lapse.  There had been, also, a ritual salute, which the official of the lottery had had to use in addressing each person who came up to draw from the box, but this also had changed with time, until now it was felt necessary only for the official to speak to each person approaching (Jackson 75) .
The town members can no longer remember exactly how the lottery is supposed to be performed, and thus either substitute different actions as part of the ritual, or do away with them altogether.
In the story there is only one explanation as to why the lottery is used.  This explanation is given by Old Man Warner, who himself has survived seventy six lotteries.  Old Man Warner states, “Used to be a saying about ‘Lottery in June, corn be heavy soon” (77).  According to this, the lottery was used as a ritual to promote a plentiful harvest season.  In all societies the success of agriculture is vital to survival.  Farmers “can only wait and hope” that the harvest season will be successful. From this hope, meaningless rituals are created, even when the ritual has no direct relationship (Griffin 44).  The townspeople would sacrifice...

Find Another Essay On Tradition or Cruelty in Shirley Jackson's The Lottery

"Sensless Tradition"- - (on Shirley Jackson's "The Lottery")

609 words - 2 pages Many towns have traditions. Some traditions are easy to understand while the origins of other traditions are vague. In Shirley Jackson's "The Lottery", the village has an unusual tradition. The tradition is senseless and horrid, yet it continues. The people in the village had a tradition that occurred on the same day every year.People are generally considered to be intelligent, yet some people seem extremely ignorant. Villages are made up

Shirley Jackson's "The Lottery" Essay

561 words - 2 pages Shirley Jackson's "The Lottery"      Shirley Jackson's "The Lottery" is an excellent example of an allegorical short story. In this story, the reader learns of a town's "lottery" that takes place once a year, every year. It has been a tradition in this small rural town for many years and the villagers never question these activities, they just blindly go along with it. But what the reader doesn't know is just what kind of prize the winner

Shirley Jackson's 'The Lottery'

927 words - 4 pages Shirley Jackson's 'The Lottery'      The setting in a story helps to form the story and it makes the characters become more interesting. There are three main types of setting. The first is nature and the outdoors, second is objects of human manufacture and construction and the third is cultural conditions and assumptions. These three things help the reader to understand the characters better in Shirley Jackson's 'The Lottery';.      'The

Shirley Jackson's 'The Lottery': How tradition is skewed

675 words - 3 pages In the short story 'The Lottery' by Shirley Jackson the theme is an illustration of certain aspects of human nature, namely blindly following established traditions without comprehending their purpose or understanding their history. When readers think of winning a lottery they relate that win with good fortune and happiness, but not in this case. The town's some 300 citizens stone the winner of Jackson's lottery to death seemingly unemotionally

Tradition in William Faulkner's A Rose for Emily and Shirley Jackson's The Lottery

640 words - 3 pages Tradition in William Faulkner's A Rose for Emily and Shirley Jackson's The Lottery People throughout the world do things for many different reasons. Religion, peer pressure, or tradition are some of the reasons the people do things. In the U.S. we have many traditions such as Christmas. Some people have strange or out of the ordinary traditions. The two short stories ?The Lottery? and ?A Rose for Emily? both portray tradition.      In

Tradition in Roberto Benigni’s Life is Beautiful and Shirley Jackson's The Lottery

1297 words - 5 pages this fate because this tradition brings great harvests and fortunes to the village, also much wealth and honor to her family. These traditions may seem abhorrent to us in our modern society, and most people do not comprehend how anyone could except something so savage. This is similar to Shirley Jackson’s “The Lottery”. Where a town holds a lottery every year, the objective of this lottery is to stone one of their own to death, and only because

Foreshadowing in Shirley Jackson's The Lottery

1156 words - 5 pages Foreshadowing in Shirley Jackson's The Lottery       "The Lottery," a short story written by Shirley Jackson, is a tale about a disturbing social practice.  The setting takes place in a small village consisting of about three hundred denizens.  On June twenty-seventh of every year, the members of this traditional community hold a village-wide lottery in which everyone is expected to participate.  Throughout the story, the reader gets an

Hidden Horrors in Shirley Jackson's The Lottery

1066 words - 4 pages Hidden Horrors in Shirley Jackson's The Lottery Shirley Jackson's short story "The Lottery" presents conflict on more than one level. The most important conflict in the story is between the subject matter and the way the story is told. From the beginning Jackson takes great pains to present her short story as a folksy piece of Americana. Slowly it dawns on us, the terrible outcome of what she describes. From the first sentence of the

Blind Obedience in Shirley Jackson's The Lottery

2802 words - 11 pages When Shirley Jackson’s “The Lottery” was first published in The New Yorker in 1948, it struck a nerve with readers. “The story was incendiary; readers acted as if a bomb had blown up in their faces . . . Shirley struck a nerve in mid-twentieth-century America . . . She had told people a painful truth about themselves” (Oppenheimer 129). Interestingly, the story strikes that same nerve with readers today. When my English class recently

Tradition in The Lottery by Shirley Jackson

1634 words - 7 pages Shirley Jackson’s The Lottery is a story about a small town’s tradition. Every summer the town’s people gather in the square for a ritualistic drawing of names, however, the winner of the drawing will lose their life. No one in the village questions the sadistic ceremony, everyone simply complies. Jackson suggest that the tradition is as old as the town and thus many portions of the ceremony have long been forgotten yet the villagers are

Time Worn Tradition: A Comparison of Values in Eudora Welty's "A Worn Path" and Shirley Jackson's "The Lottery"

1177 words - 5 pages Time Worn Tradition:A Comparison of Values in Eudora Welty's "A Worn Path" and Shirley Jackson's "The Lottery"Families and society pass on traditions as a way of spreading certain knowledge or ways of life from generation to generation. People often consider traditions to be ancient, and therefore of the highest integrity and moral meaning. But what do you do when these traditions seem to fall short over time? It is the responsibility of every

Similar Essays

Tradition Or Cruelty In Shirley Jackson's The Lottery

2242 words - 9 pages Tradition or Cruelty in Shirley Jackson's The Lottery Shirley Jackson's "The Lottery" satirizes barbaric traditions in a supposedly civilized village. As the story begins, the villagers appear to be fairly civilized and carry on fairly modern lifestyles. This is assumed by the men's discussion of planting, rain, tractors, and taxes. The lottery was outdated to such a degree that some may think that the tradition is primal competition of

Religious Tradition In Shirley Jackson's The Lottery

1116 words - 4 pages Religious Tradition in Shirley Jackson's The Lottery      While 'The Lottery' is a fictitious story it can be argued that it mirrors the attitude of American culture in how it addresses religious tradition in its major holidays and celebrations.      Two of the biggest holidays in the United States are Christmas and Easter. Both of which are derived from Christian beliefs. Even though 'The Lottery' is apparently a pagan ritual, violent

Tradition In Shirley Jackson's The Lottery

803 words - 3 pages Tradition in Shirley Jackson's The Lottery     Shirley Jackson?s insights and observations about society are reflected in her shocking and disturbing short story The Lottery. Jackson reveals two general attitudes in this story: first is the shocking tendency for societies to select a scapegoat and second is the idea that communities are victims of social tradition and rituals. Anyone with knowledge of current events must be aware of

"Sensless Tradition" (On Shirley Jackson's "The Lottery")

609 words - 2 pages Many towns have traditions. Some traditions are easy to understand while the origins of other traditions are vague. In Shirley Jackson's "The Lottery", the village has an unusual tradition. The tradition is senseless and horrid, yet it continues. The people in the village had a tradition that occurred on the same day every year.People are generally considered to be intelligent, yet some people seem extremely ignorant. Villages are made up of