Blindly following tradition is something to fear in today’s society. Shirley Jackson’s short story, “The Lottery,” is an ideal representation of this theme because a citizen of their village is sacrificed each year to be the lottery’s “winner,” and that winner is stoned to death. Comparably, in Suzanne Collins’ film The Hunger Games, a similar lottery is drawn each year where 24 citizens of Panem must fight to the death to achieve the country’s “winner.” The citizens of both the village and Panem have been programmed to understand that this tradition will occur and that it is ethical, when it most certainly is not. The relationship between the two texts is exemplified by the use of suffering as entertainment, arbitrary of mistreatment, as well as unconsciously allowing society to have so much power to a point where it becomes unethical.
The death of another person generally has a negative association with it, however, in “The Lottery” and The Hunger Games, it is abnormally amusing. In “The Lottery,” the lottery itself is considered to be among the other entertaining events in the village. “The Lottery was conducted– as were the square dances, the teen club, the Halloween program– by Mr. Summers, who had time and energy to devote to civic activities,” Jackson described (Jackson 1). A human being is stoned to death at each lottery, and it is somehow categorized with square dancing and Halloween. The text implies that the village society thinks of it as another entertaining event because that is all they’ve ever known, when they are actually being entertained by something appalling. Likewise, in The Hunger Games, the host, Effie Trinket, has a very optimistic attitude towards the game that kills 23 civilians. During the reaping, which is essentially “the lottery” of the Hunger Games, she greets everyone as if it is the best time of the year.
She announces in her very perky and high pitched voice, “Welcome, welcome, welcome! Before we begin, we have a very special film for you, brought to you all the way from the Capitol. The time has come to select one courageous young man and woman for the honor of representing District 12 in the 74th annual Hunger Games!” (The Hunger Games) Effie’s enthusiasm is representative of the government, and even other civilians of Panem, and how they view the Hunger Games as being advantageous and opportune. She is about to call out the names of two people who will more than likely die in an arena all because they got unlucky and she sees it as a great thing. Both the reaping and the lottery are viewed by civilians as enjoyable events, when in actuality they are executing someone solely based on luck.
The person chosen to be executed is at random in both texts, and the person who’s name is drawn is not guilty of anything other than bad luck. A known phrase in Panem during the times of the Hunger Games is “May the odds be ever in your favor.” (The Hunger Games) It is televised and said at every reaping. Ironically, when the government uses the phrase, “your favor” would entail competing in the games and fighting to the death, whereas “your favor” to the civilians of District 12, would mean that you are free from competing for another year. In “The Lottery,” none of the villagers think twice about the lottery. They understand that each family member has an equal chance of being chosen and accepts it, until they are the ones being stoned to death.
Tessie , a popular housewife and “winner” of the lottery, claims that her fate is unfair when she draws a black dot despite the fact that she has participated in numerous lotteries before and never mentioned it being unethical. “’Be a good sport Tessie,’ Mrs. Delacroix called, and Mrs. Graves said, ‘All of us took the same chance.’” (Jackson 4) Mrs. Graves and Mrs. Delacroix are Tessie’s fellow civilians and they quickly turned on her only because she was randomly selected to be persecuted. The haphazardness of murder in both texts is evidently unethical, however, the civilians and government of both the village and Panem are blinded by society and believe that the random selection is fair.
After traditions go on long enough, there seems no need to change; and that is exactly what happens in “The Lottery” and The Hunger Games. Characters in both texts are both severely blinded by society and see no reason to stop their tradition. Ritual murder has become part of their routine and they act like it isn’t a big deal at all. In “The Lottery,” as Mr. Summers is beginning the drawings, he says “Well now, guess we better get started, get this over with, so’s we can go back to work.” (Jackson 1) His choice of diction is too laid back for a ceremony of murder. These people, who have just returned from work, easily kill someone merely because they are told to, and they will return to work after as if it never happened. There is no explanation for this other than the fact that there has always been a lottery. They act as if it is no big deal at all when in actuality a death is occurring. Correspondingly, in The Hunger Games, after Katniss Everdeen and Peetah Melark are chosen as the “winners” of District 12, they meet with a previous victor of the games, Haymitch, who has little to no advice about how to go about the games.
He tells them to “embrace the probability of your imminent death… and know there is nothing I can do to save you.” (The Hunger Games) Katniss and Peetah are completely taken back by this and at that point, are forced to accept death. Someone who is supposedly a guide on how to win the games essentially tells them that there is no chance and to give up. The serenity of his voice indicates that he does not view the games as a big deal and it does not bother him at all that the two people he is suppose to be helping don’t have a chance to win the games. The carelessness portrayed in both texts proves that society has too much control over these civilians. They are willing to have extremely unethical and bizarre lifestyles because that is all they’ve ever known.
The overabundance of societal power is illustrated both Shirley Jackson’s “The Lottery” and Suzanne Colin’s film The Hunger Games. Characters in both texts are both willing to give up their rights just because of traditions and what they have been programmed to know. They are entertained by randomly persecuting innocent citizens that become guilty solely based on their bad luck. Murdering people based on tradition is not humane. Both the reaping and the lottery could be considered extreme examples of what could actually happen in our society if the government is given too much power. Following laws and traditions can eventually be taken too far if they are not questions by citizens.
Courtney from Study Moose
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