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Commentary on The Lottery Essay


When it is time for the lottery, the box is removed and taken to the place where the lottery is being held. The names of the residents are called one at a time to come up and take a piece of paper. When all of the people had come up and taken a folded piece of paper, everyone reads what is written on the piece they selected, but only one piece of paper had something written on it. You'll have to read the story to find out what happened and who was chosen as the winner.

The Lottery (1948) takes us into a society where all is not what it seems, with a mounting tension, it shows the reader how the story challenges the conventions of society. The writer tells the story from an objective, almost cold, point of view, using a contrasting narrative style and the voice of an objective, detached observer. As the tale builds to a dark, uncivilized and horrific climax, Jackson portrays a society that isolates, and then destroys the individual, simply by clinging to an ancient and destructive tradition. With symbols and simplicity, it poses many questions about man and his morality.

We are taken into a chronological depiction of just one day's events in a small town or village, and the story opens with a scene that seems to promise a positive experience will follow:

"The morning was...clear and sunny, with the fresh warmth of a full-summer day."

The "great pile of stones in one corner of the square" that the boys gathered, at first seems part of some childish rivalry or prank, for after all, what could be bad about this little place, this lovely day? The irony is in the title, which leads the reader to believe that somebody today is going to be lucky, to maybe win a big sum of money, as the villagers hurry to carry out the drawing of lots. The stones foreshadow what was to come, just at the dialogue and attitudes of individuals begin to insert a more sinister significance.

Mr. Adams suggested to old Mr. Warner that some places were "talking of giving up the lottery," and the response from the old man is full of foreboding, a chill of fear maybe. "Lottery in June, corn be heavy soon." he retorts. It is at this point that the reader begins to understand that this society, far from protecting and supporting its members, will sacrifice one for the perceived good of all. This is not a day for the winner to be lucky, but offers instead a possibility of death. Which of course means, the greater number, those who do not pick the winning ticket, will indeed be fortunate - for a time? This is an ancient fertility rite about to happen. The old box, the strict adherence to the ritual and the presence of every man, woman and child signify a religious service that is mandatory.

The tension becomes almost unbearable; the reader, now or in 1948,finds it difficult to accept or believe what is going on and what might be about to take place.

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