Symbol of Death in “The Lottery” by Shirley Jackson

Categories: Shirley Jackson

“The Lottery” is a short story in which Shirley Jackson, the author, presents a fictional story about a very peculiar village. The villagers have a “lottery” yearly in which one individual in the village is chosen to be stoned by the rest of the town including friends, family, and foe. Jackson portrays the lottery as a welcomed practice. Jackson uses a black box, Old Man Warner, and Tessie Hutchinson as a symbolic reference to blind humans following meaningless traditions.

In “The Lottery” there is a black box in which they draw a name out each time the lottery takes place.

The box represents tradition of the lottery and the villagers loyalty to it. In the story it is mentioned that the box is shabby and worn out, but the villagers refuse to break tradition and get a new box. “Mrs summers spoke frequently to the villagers about making a new box, but no one like to upset even as much tradition as was represented by the black box.

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” (Jackson), There is no reason to keep the black box. It is a tradition of the villagers to use the black box, thus making it something they will always follow. The lottery is a important tradition to the townspeople that they do every year. Jackson writes “The rest of the year, the box was put away sometimes one place, sometimes another...” If the lottery was such a important event to the villagers, why would they put the box in such strange places? This influences the reader to think that the other 364 days of the year the villagers are trying to forget the horrific savage thing they did to someone.

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The person that is elected could be your mom, brother, or even your best friend. Yet they choose to participate.

Old man Warner is seventy-seven years of age, which means he has participated for all those years, but he does not want to stop. He symbolizes the older generation who resist change. At the mention of other villagers not participating, Old Man Warner rambles off “ Pack of crazy fools... listening to the young folks, nothing is good enough for them. Next thing you know, they'll be wanting to go back to living in caves, nobody work any more, live hat way for a while. Used to be a saying about ‘lottery in June, corn be heavy soon.’ First thing you know, we’d all be eating stewed chickweed and acorns. There will always be a lottery... Bad enough to see young Joe Summers up there joking with everybody.” The reader can assume that Old Man Warner is just resistant to change, and is just close minded about changing the way he does things and how he does not want to change tradition.

Tessie hutchinson is a symbol of the masses of people who never question injustices in todays society until it applies to them. Tessie was always a follower of the lottery up until one of her family members were chosen. Tesssie mentioned that she had almost forgot the lottery “clean forgot what day it was... and I looked out the window and the kids were gone, and I remembered it was the twenty seventh and came running.” Tessie had always participated in the lottery she never even imaged she could be chosen. it has become such a normal thing to her that she completely forgot about the day of the lottery. Once Tessie family was chosen she quietly says “ I think we ought to start over... I tell you it wasn't fair.” Tessie seemed happy to participate in the lottery before she was the chosen one. This makes her a hypocrite. When Tessie is on her death bed about to be stoned, she keeps protesting its not fair. Tessies husband the says “Shut up, Tessie” So you can infer that Bill Hutchinson is embarrassed by Tessie’s protest because it would break the tradition of the lottery.

The black box is a symbol of death. Tessie Hutchinson is a symbol of the people who blindly follow traditions, until it pertains to them. Old Man Warner is a symbol of the older generations resistance to change. Th point of Jacksons writing is to inform the reader about how what humans do just because it is what they know and are used too. Tradition was a perfect example because not only is there barbaric traditions like this on, but the people are continuing these traditions blindly.

Updated: Nov 01, 2022
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Symbol of Death in “The Lottery” by Shirley Jackson. (2021, Mar 22). Retrieved from

Symbol of Death in “The Lottery” by Shirley Jackson essay
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