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“The Lottery” by Shirley Jackson Essay

The community has no real knowledge of this ceremony. It seems ridiculous that a community would cling to such a barbaric tradition, especially when they don’t even know the correct way to do it. It becomes apparent this community is very weak-minded. Even the way they congregated at the lottery was done systematically in a sexist way. This community could be convinced to do anything. There are so many points in the story that show these people know nothing of the lottery’s history.

First of all, this tradition has been slowly peeled away for centuries. The actual modern ceremony was obviously more somber, with no one making light jokes and friendly conversation.. “Years and years ago this part of the ritual had been allowed to lapse.” This quote makes you wonder how many parts of the ritual were lost. There were probably so many intricacies, proper ways to face, words to recite. This form of brutalism is treated very informally, with Mr. Summers dressed in just a white shirt and jeans. These people don’t realize the major sin they are committing, nor do they realize the purpose behind it. “The people had done it so many times that they only half listened…” This has no real meaning to them, it’s like they’re just going through the motions

The worst part is the purpose of the ritual was not said or explained once. No one asked why this must take place, no one questioned it. All the people know is that once a year they have a draw, and kill someone as a community.

The low intelligence level in this village also explains why ridiculous ceremonies like this can be carried out. The women are dressed very old fashioned, all with their dresses and aprons, following their “menfolk”. It was preferred that the men drew for the lottery. This decision was carried out very formally and business-like, as if it was such an important detail. Why make it such a point to exclude women, but treat every other part of the ritual so informally? They even go as low as appointing Mr. Summers the man in charge, the same man who devotes himself to all the youth related civic activities. The ritual appears to be a community activity, as if it was written on everyone’s social calendar.

The lack of formality is very disconcerting to the reader. The tardiness of Mr. Summers, the pleasant conversation, and so many more examples of disrespect and eagerness make it very obvious. They only follow parts of the ritual deemed necessary. “get this over with, so’s we can go back to work” No one seems to realize this is a murder they are committing, it is inhumane. This ritual, passed down through generations, is no more important than a day’s work. As the draw is carried out, the people only hope it isn’t the innocent children that are chosen. The kids cheered with relief when their slips of paper turned up blank. There was no sorrow for their mother, who had undoubtedly “won” the lottery, just relief their lives were spared.

This would appear to any normal human as a useless tradition. It has no further meaning other than allowing a mortal sin to take place. If the whole community follows that makes it okay. Everything is changing but the cold-blooded murder. There are no formalities. No one appears to be taking it seriously, besides the one whose name was drawn. There is absolutely no mention of the purpose behind this ritual in the entire story. The people have no respect for the ritual itself, they just want to hurry up and find out who won, and get to the stoning.


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