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“It isn’t fair, it isn’t right,” this is Tessie Hutchinson’s last phrase before the stoning takes place. This short story choked many readers when it was first published in 1948in the “New Yorker.” The text can be read as a criticism of man’s need to find a scapegoat but in this essay I will try to illustrate the capitalistic side of the story. I will do this by a closer look at the atmosphere, the different characters and the hierarchy which seems to exist.
At first sight the atmosphere seems to be a quite nice. The weather is sunny and everything blossoms, the boys gather stones and the women exchange the latest gossip. But by a closer look there is more than one place which shows how the village citizens really feel:
The villagers kept their distance, leaving a space between themselves and the stool, and when Mr. Summers said, “Some of you fellows want to give me a hand?” there was a hesitation before two men, Mr. Martin and his oldest son, Baxter, came forward to hold the box steady to the stool…1
This shows the respect and fear the village citizens feel towards the black box, they keep a distance. That Mr. Martin and his son are the ones who end up holding the box is not a coincident. In the village exists some kind of capitalistic hierarchy. Joe Summer owns the biggest company in the city and for that reason he is also the most powerful man in the village. The proof of that is that he is the head of the lottery.
That Tessie becomes the “winner” of the lottery is not a coincident neither. There are several places in the short story where it shows that Tessie is a rebellion against the way the village hierarchical division and it’s work ethic:
Mrs. Hutchinson came hurriedly along the path to the square, her sweater thrown over her shoulders, and slid into place in the back of the crowd. “Clean forgot what day it was,”2
By showing up to late she has already shown the first sign of rebellion. The late arrival shows an unconscious resistance to everything the lottery involves. I say unconscious because of the preliminary sentence: “It isn’t fair.” It is not the actual lottery Tessie finds unfair but the fact that she is the winner or “the chosen one,” so to speak. Her rebellion against the village old fashion patriarchal lifestyle is seen in page 126 lines 7 and 8:
“Get up there, Bill,” Mrs. Hutchinson said, and the people near her laughed.
By saying this she exhibits a rebellion against the manly domination which reigns in the village and lays down the relationship between husband and wives. In this village the women or the wives take care of the household and the children while the men take care of the work and the finances. Because the men are the ones who make the money, by working, they are also the once who possess the power. The laughter around her might indicate the surroundings insecurity.
The role as a rebellion is worse then the role as the lowest in the hierarchy who happens to be Dunbars and the Watsons. The Dunbars because Mr. Dunbar has broken a leg and the Watsons because Mr. Watson is dead. These families are the first mentioned after the drawing has found place, because they in the citizens eyes are the most exposed families because of their humble production. The connection between the lottery and the production or work ethic is also seen in Mr. Warner’s jingle or proverb in page 126 lines 17 and 18:
“Lottery in June corn be heavy soon.”
This indicates that the lottery should be regarded as an old tradition which involves some kind of sacrifice, maybe to God(s). The old man Warner is an interesting character his name could be related to the substantive “a warning.” Mr. Warner has participated in the lottery in many years and if there is some kind of connection between the “winner” and the least productive in the village he has a reason to be proud. That is probably also why he acts so contemptuous when the Adams tells that some villages have stopped their lottery:
“pack of crazy fools,” he said. “Listening to the young folk, nothing’s good enough for them. Next thing you know, they’ll be wanting to go back to living in caves, nobody work anymore,”3
This reference to the Stone Age is very ironic as most people would come to the agreement that stoning people is more barbaric and antiquated then to put a stop to it. As the name associate the Adams seems to account for the humanity in the village though they don’t suggest directly to end the lottery. The reason for the preservation of the lottery can maybe also be explained by the the capitalistic hierarchy.
The stoning of a citizens might compensate for the rebellion the citizens feel inside but which only finds expression in Tessie. Instead of fight the hierarchy division they find satisfaction in the sacrificing of a scapegoat. This strongly underlines the capitalistic view on the story. Mr. Summers is the most powerful man and he is the only one who can stop the lottery but if he did so the rebellion against the unjust division of power would start. That’s why he repeat the lottery every year.
All though this text is published for more than 50years ago it seems timeless. The way of finding a scapegoat instead of fight the actual causes to the dissatisfaction still exist.
In this text the citizens find a scapegoat every year instead of fight the capitalistic hierarchy in which people with most money also are the ones with most power.