The Lottery as a Hidden Gem

Categories: The Lottery

Many people pick stories with themes and symbols that smack them in the face. It is true that these are nice to read because it does not take much brain power to understand every bit of what is going on. Other people, however, may enjoy a book the is more of a hidden gem, with meanings just as hard to find as the story itself. Many people claim that Shirley Jackson’s, “The Lottery” to be a hidden gem.

“The Lottery” is considered a hidden gem because the author creates a story filled with symbolism, irony, and ritualized tradition that masks evil, which ultimately demonstrates how people blindly follow tradition.

There are many different symbols in this story, and the more research one does, the more they will find. There are three symbols that are considered to be the most prominent. The first one being the stones. Jackson not only attempted but achieved something that a lot of writers seem to have trouble with, turning an object that is seemingly harmless, into something deadly.

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She also does this with the paper, showing how dreadful a black spot on some paper can be. Jackson mentions early in the story that there were kids picking up stones, seemingly harmless child’s play. This harmlessness in the readers minds soon turns to disgust when they realize what those stones are for, and how pleasant the children seemed while gathering them. The second symbol is the black box, which all the pieces of paper are in.

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The box is worn and old, but the villagers do not want to “upset tradition” by replacing it. ( LitCharts. “The Black Box Symbol Analysis.” LitCharts, black-box.) This show that, not only does this village blindly follow this tradition, but they could also be considered superstitious. Upsetting tradition seems like something only people with supernatural beliefs would say. Therefore, the black box is a symbol to the villagers of the endurance of their tradition. The last symbol is the marked slip of paper, though, knowing what the marked paper meant is straight forward in itself. These slips of paper, which were made up by Mr. Summers and Mr. Graves, have replaced the chips of wood in the box. Many people would think that it is the paper itself that is powerful and cruel, they are mistaken.

The marked slip of paper also shows the pointlessness of the lottery itself. It is created by Joe Summers with pencil the night before the lottery, and it is only this mark, casually made by another human, that determines the fate of a person. The commonness of the object reminds us that the marked slip of paper holds no power, other than the power that the villagers give it by adhering to the tradition of the lottery. (LitCharts. “The marked slip of paper Symbol Analysis.” LitCharts, The second reason why this story is a hidden gem is because of the irony. The first and most ironic part of this story is the title.

Up until the end, one may think that this gathering is a joyous occasion because someone is going to win something, right? Wrong. The title of Jackson’s story is ironic because, in her lottery, the winner does not receive a prize; she is, in fact, condemned to death. This adds an additional layer of irony because Jackson’s winner loses the biggest, and most desirable prize of all: the gift of life. By employing such an ironic title, Jackson completely smashes the readers expectations of the events to come. For a story that is so animalistic and gruesome, the name throws readers off Jacksons cunning trail until the very end. The next ironic item is the word usage. Jacksons word usage is disturbingly genius.

For example, Jackson states at the beginning of the story that, “The morning of June 27th was clear and sunny, with the fresh warmth of a full-summer day; the flowers were blossoming profusely and the grass was richly green.” (Enrollment, Dual. Bethel University Online > Login, Framework.aspx?SectionID=440) With this sentence, readers would think that a pleasant, even romantic story, was about to unfold. It is ironic because Jackson was showing that, just how people would view flowers blooming as normal, the villagers think that what they are doing is just as normal. Jackson, without the readers knowledge, is already showing how animalistic the ritual is, by inadvertently showing that this story is very in tune with nature. The third thing that adds to the greatness of this story is tradition. Like what was said earlier, a good explanation for why this (practice has gone on for so long and has continued is because of the villagers fear of upsetting tradition. It seems as if, if they stopped, dreadful things would happen to all of them.

Though there is no implied time period, the stoning has obviously been going on for a long time. Jackson shows how disturbingly normal the violence has become in this village. To prove this, Jackson writes “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,” she said to Mrs. Delacroix, who stood next to her, and they both laughed softly.” (Enrollment, Dual. Bethel University Online > Login, Framework.aspx?SectionID=440) This shows that this has obviously been going on for a while, because if this had been implemented in the last twenty years, people would most likely not be so relaxed about the ordeal.

No benefit of the lottery is described. The only clear statement in favor of continuing the lottery is Old Man Warner’s insistence that ending the lottery would bring nothing but trouble. The next part of tradition is Mrs. Hutchinsons last words before she was stone. “It isn’t fair, it isn’t right.” (Enrollment, Dual. Bethel University Online > Login, Framework.aspx?SectionID=440) Jackson intentionally made Tessie late so that, from the beginning, she would stand out. Now, Tessie was all too laid back about the drawings, that was until her husband drew the black dotted paper, then, she attempts to claim that the drawing wasn’t fair, appealing, unsuccessfully, to her neighbors and friends with whom she had chatted amiably just before. (LitCharts. “Tessie Hutchinson Character Analysis.” LitCharts, lottery/characters/tessie-hutchinson)

After they restarted, she drew the black dotted paper. She was so relaxed at the beginning, she even forgot that the lottery was today, this showed that she obviously was not taking this as serious as everyone else, making her a rebel, and a danger to the long-practiced tradition. This short story illustrates how tradition has the power to influence our lives in such a way that we lose the ability to know what is right and wrong. Therefore, “The Lottery” is a short story, with much to offer, and gives a disturbing insight into a primal, animalistic side to humans that is all too normal. Jackson strived to show the reader how dangerous tradition can be.

Works Cited

  1. LitCharts. “The Black Box Symbol Analysis.” LitCharts, lottery/symbols/the-black-box
  2. Irony in Shirley Jackson’s The Lottery Shirley Jackson Lottery Essays,
  3. LitCharts. “Tessie Hutchinson Character Analysis.” LitCharts, m/lit/the-lottery/characters/tessie-hutchinson
  4. (2018). Cite a Website – Cite This For Me. [online] Available at:

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The Lottery as a Hidden Gem. (2021, Sep 24). Retrieved from

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