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The Lottery as a Societal Allegory Essay


Across the world, many societies depend upon the traditions handed down from elders and ancestors. Most members of the society blindly follow these traditions because it has always been done. In Shirley Jacksons The Lottery, people follow a brutal tradition for these very reasons. The short story is a social commentary on how people blindly follow traditions, regardless of their purpose or outcome.

The staunchest supporters of tradition tend to be elderly people in society. In the story, the character Old Man Warren defends the lottery by saying, Theres always been a lottery. (296) There seems to be a if its good enough for my ancestors, its good enough for me attitude behind his support for the lottery. In our society today, its a thought often conjured to defend our own traditions. A good example would be the role religion, more specifically Christianity, plays in our modern-day society. Christianity is something passed down to us from our Anglo ancestors that we accept purely because its what we were all taught to believe. If we had grown up in Iran, Allah may have been our God of choice. Christianity has a bloody past in which people have blindly followed it to despicable ends. The witches burned in Salem, Massachusetts would surely attest to that.

The people of the unnamed village accept the lottery and its consequences. The only voice of dissent would be that of the chosen person. When Tessie Hutchinsons husband draws their family name, she begins to protest. Her husband tells her simply to, Shut up, Tessie. (297) In our own society a tradition of hate or contempt for someone is tolerated because its a tradition to detest them. An example that comes to mind is how homosexuals have been treated in America. Their sexual preference is different which singles them out and makes them ripe for ridicule; yet it never stays at ridicule. Theyve often been beaten and killed for something they did not choose. This of course is not in the public eye; its in small towns all over the United States. If someone speaks out against this in their particular community they would be ostracized, or simply told to shut up, as Tessie Hutchinson encountered.

Most of the traditions that we become conditioned to are implemented in us as children. Whether it is prejudices learned from other kids or passed on by our parents, we see these ideas as normal and integrate them into our own thinking. The children had stones already, and someone gave little Davey Hutchinson a few pebbles. (299) Those seeds of tradition were planted in Tessie Hutchinsons son the day of her lottery win. In our society there are many examples of this. Be it our religion, our fascination by violence or our prejudices towards people that are different from us. If you grow up in an all-white neighborhood and the adults around you fear black people, chances are that youll have irrational hatred and blindly follow the tradition of racism instilled in you.

The Lottery gives us many tidbits of social commentary in this societal allegory. We as a people often blindly follow traditions laid out for us by our elders. We need to recognize that some tradition is good, unless it involves the hurt of another human being. Until we realize this truth, we will not be able to grow as a people.

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