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Morality in The Lottery Essay


Why would a civilized and peaceful town practice terrible acts of violence that would take place anywhere at any time and the most ordinary people would commit them? Shirley Jackson was successful in delivering her message which was to shock the storys readers with a graphic demonstration of the pointless violence and general inhumanity in their own lives. She conveyed how indistinct the morals and values of the village are. The Lottery was first published in The New York on June 26, 1948. The story is named after the tradition that takes place once every year in the square town of a small American village.. The tradition is that each year the people of the village would choose a woman who will be stoned to death to ensure a good harvest. The setting of the story is constructed to build the mood of the reader and expect positive outcomes as the author describes the setting as tranquil and peaceful. She describes it by saying, [It was] clear and sunny, with the fresh warmth of a fully summer day; the flowers were blossoming profusely and the grass was richly green. Those descriptions allow the reader to relax and expect optimistic ending. However, the irony is that the outcomes turn out to contrast the expected results and the story ends in a brutal horrible way. The lottery is an illusion of a sadistic immoral society who practices an unethical tradition by encouraging violence until it becomes personal.

The Lottery demonstrates the immoral behavior of the whole society. Morality is the conformity to the rules of right conduct; moral or virtuous conduct. Humans are naturally against cheating and dishonesty. Moreover, humans are generally sensitive and care and therefore, we do not like or enjoy people getting harmed. However, none of those characteristics are present in that American village. In fact, most of the villagers lack those qualities. Therefore, they are portrayed as immoral.

It is surprising how the most docile people can be capable of practicing an inhuman and unethical tradition with such immoral behavior. Shirley Jackson describes the villagers as kind, hardworking people. However, they practice that tradition by choosing an individual to be killed. Before the lottery, they spend much of their time together as friends and neighbors. Yet, their tradition allows them to overcome their relationships, neglect how close they are, and gives them the right to stone that person to death without any grief. Each year, all the villagers gather in the square acting very nonchalantly with the feeling of excitement. They proceed with their day normally; women gossip, children play happily, and men talk about farming without expressing any sorrow or sadness. Moreover, the villagers do not seem annoyed from the tradition. However, the only reason they want to get it over with quickly so that they would go back home and have dinner. This proves that they view the death of a person from the lottery as an ordinary thing.

Another immoral behavior illustrated in the story is following the old violent cruel traditions without even questioning its origins and importance. They never question the morality, or the reason behind sacrificing a human life. None of the people who attend the lottery in the square know why or under what circumstances the lottery began. All they know that it is a tradition. Even when the villagers felt indolent for the lottery, Old Man Warner would speak of its great importance. He would never have the time to explain its importance. Yet, he would defend it. Even when he heard that a neighboring town would end the lottery, he was angry as he said, Pack of crazy fools. He added, Listening to the young folks, nothings good enough for them. Next thing you know, theyll be wanting to go to living in caves, nobody work anymore, live that way for a while. He is totally convinced that practicing the vicious merciless act is the right thing and does not want any of the villagers to doubt its credibility. Even Tessies own family did not question it while they took part in stoning her. Moreover, they use the tradition as a way to excuse killing. Furthermore, the villagers only reason for having the lottery as a tradition is for the sake of tradition. That is illustrated when the Old Man Warner said, Theres always been a lottery. Another villager also said, We have always had a lottery as far as I can remember. I see no reason to end it. Those examples prove reluctant of the villagers of that society to question or reject old tradition no matter what is the price.

One moral in this story has to do with the nature of violence. People turn a blind eye towards violence. Illustrated in the story in many examples is the idea that violence can occur anytime and anywhere. The villagers use the everybody else is doing it mentality to rationalize violence. Bobby Marin had already stuffed his pockets full of stones, and the other boys soon followed his example, is an example that depicts that point. Another support for the nature of violence and how people neglect the horrifying acts, but actually support it, is portrayed when the children were collecting the stones. It was stated in the story that the children collected the smoothest stones in order to increase the pain as much as possible and slower the death. That shows how sadistic the children have become resulting from experiencing and practicing that shocking dreadful tradition.

In that society, violence is supported and accepted by everyone until it comes their turn. When Tessie was not in danger, she was enjoying her day with her friends gossiping and she even encouraged her husband to pick the slip. Conversely, when she wins and her prize was for the villagers to stone her to death, she screams for mercy. She started to scream, It isnt fair. It isnt right. Although Tessie had never complained about the lottery during all her life, she complained when she is the one who is going to be killed. That is obviously an immoral behavior. Her sudden change of heart upon having her own name chosen serves to highlight the hypocrisy of a society in which violence is accepted until it becomes personal.

Although the villagers praise that they are practicing the cruel tradition The Lottery they had forgotten the original traditions of the lottery. The traditions of the lottery such as the recital and the salute have been forgotten and given up. Also, wood chips were replaced by paper slips. It is ironic that all they can remember of the tradition is the pitiless merciless act of killing. This shows that they are only holding on to the violent part of the ritual giving up the original traditions of it.

In conclusion, the lottery is a tradition practiced in an American village. It is an annual event that basically revolves around choosing a woman and stoning her to death to ensure good harvest. The villagers appear to be good people standing out to their traditions. On the other hand, all their attitudes prove that they are immoral. Many examples were illustrated in the story to demonstrate that. Firstly, they never question the importance of the lottery even when a member of their family is the one getting stoned. Secondly, they find it absolutely ordinary and do not feel grief if someone is killed from the lottery even if they were very close friends or neighbors. Thirdly, the spread the everybody is doing it mentality to make violence seem like a rational thing. Moreover, the whole society accepts violence until it comes their turn. Finally, they make it seem like they are holding on to the lottery because it is a tradition and they cannot just end it although they gave up the original traditions of it. Practicing such an inhumane tradition by lying someones fate in an inanimate object, the black box, is extremely vicious and evil.

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