Shirley Jackson’s book, ‘The Lottery’ is a short story which portrays an annually held lottery in a small town in England. The one who is picked by the lottery is then killed by the town members by being stoned. The story has a number of hints and symbols which contribute to the many themes in it. One of the themes is tradition. Tradition is something that is passed down from one generation to another with the hope that it will help the next generation in surviving and living in harmony.
The theme of Tradition in Shirley Jackson’s book is portrayed strongly as the villagers of a small town assemble at the Town’s Square to hold a Lottery that seemed so harmless at first. This tradition was always performed on June 27 where families would gather together and wait for Mr. Summers to run the lottery.
It was a tradition that each family attended the lottery regardless of the outcomes or how busy they were; everyone simply had to show up even the children.
The Town’s people followed this tradition whole heartedly for many years. However some of the villagers like Mr. Adams tried to at least reason with the Town’s elder Old man Warner about holding the lottery as many other villages and countries had dropped the lottery tradition but Old man Warner wanted to hear none of these because he believed that stopping the tradition could only cause more trouble to the village.
It is amusing and shocking how blindly the villagers follow the tradition of holding a Lottery despite knowing the fact that one person must die every time they held the Lottery.
Most villagers are ignorant to the fact that some traditions like the lottery do not benefit the village in any way as it only brings pain and anguish to the families that lose their people through the Lottery tradition. This tradition judges people not basing on the offences one has committed but basing on whether or not your paper had been ‘drawn’ with a black dot. In the story; once the villagers had been called out by their names and given pieces of paper to open; it was known that one of the villagers by the name Tessie had her paper drawn with a black dot. Mr. Summers ordered the other villages to hurry up and grab stones. Tessie was killed through this process; she was stoned by people she thought were her close friends, her family members and even children, all in the name of following tradition.
In this story it is seen how the villagers simply follow tradition, not because they don’t think it is bad but simply because they don’t know how to follow anything else except what they found their predecessors doing. Nobody fully understands why this tradition was held or how it helped the village. Old man Warner tried to justify the purpose of holding the lottery by saying that not following the tradition would only create more trouble for the village. It is not clear how it would cause trouble since the lottery tradition itself was trouble because as Mrs. Tessie Hutchinson said, ‘it is not fair’.
A sign of tradition can be something very simple, but it can also be very evil. The lottery has many symbols which show how a community does not abandon their ways of doing things easily. In order to maintain the tradition, the people of this town kill one of the villagers. The family of Mrs. Hutchinson was removed from a passed down black box which resulted in him being stoned. The reason behind this was that she was chosen by luck. When people are caught up in traditions and beliefs which have been overused, they become brutal; this is Shirley Jackson’s humanity perception. This is an ancient story, but the symbolism still relates to today’s life. Traditions can go on and on for a long time. This is symbolized by the black box which had all the names of every household. The black color of the box was a darkness and death symbol. This was to imply that such a traditional object could have a major impact.
Tradition is a main characteristic of humanity. Humanity has adhered to traditions which have been handed down from one generation to the next one. Most communities around the world do not have an idea of where or who started these customs, but they follow them blindly. In the story ‘The Lottery’, the townspeople practice the tradition of the lottery regardless of the consequences. Shirley Jackson narrates how the people of the town are blind to the repercussions caused by the lottery. This is because they are not willing to change their traditions but still follow the customs and traditions of the lottery.
Following traditions blindly can be very dangerous as seen in ‘The Lottery’ where someone gets killed for no reason at all. When the story begins, the author brings out the picture of a small village which prepares for a lottery which is seen not to be dangerous. By the end of the story, tables turn where someone who is innocent ends up killed. This blind following and authorization of the lottery therefore became a tradition in this town and murder was now part and parcel of them. This story enables us to understand the dangers of following traditions blindly as there are some traditions like the Lottery’ which are of no beneficial value to the villagers and the Town in general.
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