Name of Student
Name of University
6 May 2015
Tradition has been playing a great role in the lives of people from early times. Even if a certain tradition or norm is useful in any way for anyone, it is strictly followed with blind faith. The Lottery by Shirley Jackson is one such story that tells about a town where the people are bound by a tradition that is somewhat brutal, but it is followed without any questions. Jackson has used various types of symbols throughout her story that enables readers to understand the message she wants to convey to her audience.
Central Theme of the Story
The short story The Lottery is about a yearly lottery draw that is held in a small town in New England. According to this lottery, one person is randomly selected and then stoned to death by the other people of the town. The setting and tone of the story is unique and at every step the author uses names and objects that otherwise hide the intention of the lottery. The main idea or theme of this story is the Black Box. The color black represents mystery or doom, and it is true in this case. The fate of a village is locked inside this inanimate black box. Moreover, the old and broken box furthers shows that the people are not willing to embrace new changes, and so they cling to this splintered box and its tradition. They are not even curious to know its origin but accept it as a part and parcel of their lives (Shirley and Stanley, 1968).
The Season symbolizes falsehood
The description of the season and the warmth of the summer sun seem quite welcoming and appear that there is going to be a refreshing start of the year. But this is quite misleading, and as the readers move through the pages, they realize that it is the end of someone’s life who wins the lottery. Although it is a bright summer’s day, the people gathered at the venue of the lottery are not as bright as the weather. There are quietude and solemnity in the surroundings, and the children stand quietly.
Mr. Warner stands as a witness to the age-old lottery tradition
. Warner is the oldest man in the town as the author says that he has taken part in seventy-seven such lotteries before. He stands as a witness to this brutal tradition that is being followed for so many years without any opposition or retaliation from the people living there. Though times have changed, nobody has had the courage to question the authorities about the rule animal-like system of the lottery. Moreover, Mr. Warner explains that it is this tradition that has kept them together. Ignorant of new methods of agriculture, he emphasizes that human sacrifice can only bring prosperity and good harvests for them as he says “Lottery in June, corn be heavy soon.” Changes according to him might be disastrous. There has been one change however, and paper is used in place of wooden chips.
Symbolism in the use of Names
The names of the characters of the story The Lottery have significant meanings and are exclusive examples of the symbolism of Jackson. The names foretell the coming events in the story. Delacroix means “Of the Cross” in French language. The villagers, however, pronounce the word wrongly that indicate martyrdom, according to Christianity. Again the character who draws the lottery is called Mr. Summers, and his assistant is Mr. Graves. There is a hint of someone’s death here, and the grave will be necessary during this summer month when the lottery will be drawn.
What the Black Box portrays
Another significant point that is noted about the Black Box is that it holds the key of a person’s life and death. Being black in color it also portrays the fact that the tradition maintained for so many years is a heinous act and symbolizes death and evil. The three-legged stool is ironically presented in the story. To the Christians, the stool represents the Holy Trinity and is an embodiment of purity and holiness. But here it is the emblem of sin and death.
The story, The Lottery in its entirety symbolizes unquestioned tradition that existed in society. It portrays the mentality and fearful attitude to speak against tradition although they are very sure that what is being practiced is evil and is nothing but ignorance and blind faith on tradition. The incident of Mr. Hutchinson is so controversial. It is his wife who is the winner of the lottery and being her husband he participates in stoning her to death. This is insanity, and the immoral act shows how much society is tied in chains of tradition and old practices. This story is one of the most mysterious stories ever told about tradition and religious beliefs.
The author has used various symbols and descriptions to portray the unbelievable and rather unacceptable behavior and acts of insanity to pinpoint how such beliefs had worked on the society and made them a prey to such evil acts.
Shirley Jackson; Stanley Edgar Hyman. (1968). Come Along with Me; Part of a Novel, Sixteen Stories, and Three Lectures. Viking Press, New York.