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Commentary on The Lottery Essay


In the story The Lottery by Shirley Jackson, there are several reoccurring themes and thought patterns that go through the story. The first round of reading, the story was mildly interesting at best. After reading the story a second time, I began to make connections to our society. This story was written in an earlier America, where ignorance was the cause of blind innocence. The Lottery is a chilling tale that shows just how quickly people will turn upon one another when they are following a ring leader.

At the beginning of the story, the setting plays a major part in setting the tone. The morning of June 27th was clear and sunny, with the fresh warmth of a full-summer day. The beginning line in this story makes you feel like this is a warm and welcoming story with the fairytale dream ending. This is quickly followed by how the townspeople gather in the town square. Imagining the town square, there are comparisons to a fence, or a cage. Everyone must be in that place at the right time, or risk being left out. The story takes a dark twist when the stones are brought in. Children already had stones in their pockets and there was a large pile. The part of this that is confusing is children partake in such a barbaric ritual.

One of the biggest symbolic items in this story is the box. Throughout the story, the black box is mentioned in many different ways. When originally describing the box, it was a large black box that was old and tattered, and was splintered so badly you could see the original wood color. The symbolism there lies in the fact that this town relied on rituals and traditions. The box was said to have been made with some of the original box from when the town was first developed. This is representative of how tradition is passed through many generations, but after a while you lose sight of the original product. The box wearing through to the original coloring shows that there are some parts that may be traditional but it has become something entirely new over time. Throughout the story, they have listings of when the Official would walk through the crowd and talk to people, and how things were more together. They werent strictly there to watch someone die and be done with it. Now, the whole matter can be taken care of for a village with over 300 people in less than two hours.

Another large part of the story was the characters in the story. One of the characters, Old Man Warner, had participated in 77 lotteries and was so deeply involved in the tradition that he believed if the town did not participate in the lottery they would have a poor harvest. Another striking character is Tessie Hutchinson. She arrived late to the lottery after she had been doing the dishes and realized what day it was. This original part sets her aside from the rest of the characters. It was almost as if her character had been held above the others, and that she was a threat. She was something to be feared because she thought so lightly of tradition. When her character was stoned to death, it seemed that everything pointed to it. Most people hoped that when the Hutchinsons were called upon, it wouldnt be one of the children. They had no consideration of what that trauma might do to a young child that loses their mother. Mr. Summers is also another large part of the story. He is the Official for the lottery. He is a younger man with no children and a nagging wife. He was the one who put together all of the contents of the black box for the ceremony and in charge of organizing it overall. The fact that his character showed no nonchalant attitude towards the whole situation leaves one dubious of the fact that this society has no compassion for others. The compassion for others is something that is becoming less and less popular in our society, thats true, but at the same time to stone someone to death after joking goodheartedly with them about being late is just cruel. To be the person in charge of all of that makes you wonder why people hold so tightly to tradition. What person would willingly take that position to be the official of such a barbaric ceremony? The pace that people turn on their friends and family in this story shows the unnecessary cruelty of humans.

All in all, this story is a sad, traumatic tale of the unnecessary evil in our society. What makes us hold so tightly to tradition that we cant see that some things are just wrong? Just because something is habit doesnt mean its right or should be allowed. Just because you pick up a cigarette and make that a habit doesnt mean it is healthy even if it provides you with a false sense of security for those brief moments. There are so many dark elements in this story, but one that can be truly respected and appreciated by such an amazing writer.

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