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Essay/Term paper: The lottery

Essay, term paper, research paper:  Book Reports

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Shirley Jackson"s insights and observations about man and

society are reflected in her famous short story "The

Lottery". Many of her readers have found this story

shocking and disturbing. Jackson reveals two general

attitudes in this story: first, the shocking reality of human"s

tendency to select a scapegoat and second, society as a

victim of tradition and ritual.

Throughout history we have witnessed and participated in

many events, where, in time of turmoil and hardship,

society has a tendency to seize upon a scapegoat as means

of resolution. The people of the village had been taught to

believe that in order for their crop to be abundant for the

year, some individual had to be sacrificed. "Lottery in June,

corn be heavy soon", said Old Man Warner. The irony

here is that villagers are aware that this act is inhumane but

none want to stand and voice their opinion, for fear of

going against society"s standards and being outcast or

being stoned. "It"s not the way it used to be," Old Man

Warner said clearly. "People ain"t the way they used to

be." Fear that if they go against society they might be

chosen as the lottery winner or there might be a truth, after

all, that it would disrupt their corn season. "Some places

have already quit lotteries," Mrs. Adams said. "Nothing but

trouble in that," Old Man Warner said stoutly. "Pack of

young fools." In stoning Tessie, the villagers treat her as a

scapegoat onto which they can project and repress their

own temptations to rebel. The only person who shows their

rebellious attitude is Tessie. She does not appear to take

the ritual seriously, as she comes rushing to the square

because she "clean forgot what day it was". The villagers

are aware of her rebellious attitude and they are weary that

she may be a possible cause for their crops not to be

plentiful. "It isn"t fair, it isn"t right," Mrs. Hutchinson

screamed, and then they were upon her.

We can understand how traditions are easily lost through

the handing down of information, beliefs, and customs by

word of mouth or by example from one generation to

another. It is how traditions that lose their meaning due to

human forgetfulness can cause dreadful consequences to

occur. Although "the villagers had forgotten the ritual and

lost the original box, they still remembered to use stones".

Do people just pick and choose which part of a tradition

they want to keep? We tend to remember the actions and

the objects necessary to proceed with a ritual, but we

always seem to forget the purpose or the reason behind it.

Are we correct in still continuing the tradition even though

there is a victim involved? It seems we, as part of a society,

are scared of being ridiculed if we change or end a tradition

because everyone around us will still behave in the manner

they were taught. "The people had done it so many times

that they only half listened to the directions," shows that the

meaning and purpose behind the ritual had been lost and

they were just acting it out through repetition. The villagers,

who remember some bits of history about those forgotten

aspects of the ritual, aren"t even definite about the accuracy

of their beliefs. Some believe that the "official of the lottery

should stand" a certain way when he sang the chant, others

believe that he should "walk among the people". No one

exactly remembers the how and why of the tradition, most

have become completely desensitized to the murderous

rituals. Because the adults have forgotten the tradition"s

history, the children know even less and they are

desensitized to murder, thinking it"s just another fun holiday

like Christmas.

Jackson expressed clearly how violence that occurs around

us or that we cause is pointless and has no purpose. Yet

this violence and evil grows from a seed within our hearts

and minds waiting to free itself in times of panic and turmoil.

We need to learn to find solutions to our problems instead

of putting the blame on others as means of a remedy. When

there are no other corrupt and sinful human beings to kill,

society will turn on itself. Even caring and normal human

beings can throw stones. Forgotten traditions can also be

extremely dangerous as Shirley Jackson points out in her

short story. People hear what they want to hear and

choose what rituals to keep for traditions. The simple game

of telephone proves that as a society, we are just like the

villagers, forgetting the original words but continuing on as if

the words we know are the original.


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