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Analysis of The Lottery Essay


The story that I chose is ,The Lottery by Shirley Jackson. The central theme of the story is the black box that is used in the lottery drawing. The box symbolizes a kind of mystery. As we read the story and find out about the box, we realize that someones fate lies in this box. The box symbolizes tradition and our desire to not change things. In this story the underlying evil shows a tradition not necessarily of a positive nature, but of a nature of evilness by the outcome.

The story starts out with details about a normal town. The setting is what gives you a false sense of ease by telling you, "The flowers were blossoming profusely and the grass was richly green, it was a warm full summer day." This starts you out believing in a normal lighthearted story. The story has a calm and relaxed setting. Children are out of school for the summer. Boys were gathering stones, which is the first foreshadowing that you get an idea of something bad that is going to happen. Then it hits you like a bunch of rocks, literally. The calmness has a false sense of ease about it, leading you to believe that a lottery is a drawing to win a prize, or drawing straws or tickets for a place in line. But in this story, the lottery is attributed to death, although you dont find this out until the abrupt end.

This is also a story of tradition. For people of different backgrounds and cultures, traditions hold a special and important place in their lives. Tradition can dictate life and in this instance, death. The Lottery depicts a sadistic tradition of stoning people in order to ensure their crops are good. Old man Warner states this by saying, "Lottery in June, corn be heavy soon" (pg 590). As the men talk they discuss the other villages stopping the lottery. Ironically, Old ManWarner talks about eating stewed chickweed and acorns and going back to living in caves. This would depict uncivilized people, but how civilized are people who stone their own family members? It appears that tradition has blinded these people in an irrational way, making them unable to think of a reason why this possibly should not be happening. That this is a normal every day event. No one in the town questions the lottery or the origins of the lottery. No one even knows where or when the black box originated, but they accept the box as part of their community. This is shown by the box spending one year in Mr. Graves barn, another year in the post office, and another with it set on a shelf in the grocery store. The Black box is the key element in this story where tradition resides . The box symbolizes evil itself. It is black, which is the color of death. When the box is introduced into the crowd the mood of the townspeople changes. The box holds everyone's life and death inside it. Someone's fate lies in an inanimate object. This old box.

People do not enjoy change, even if proven beneficial to us and our families. This black box symbolized a lack of change . The box is so old no one remembers where it came from. It's said that the original box was gone, and the current black box was made from parts of the older one. As with the box the original paraphernalia for the lottery had been lost . These people did not question anything about the lottery. They acted as if it were a normal thing to kill a person.

When forced with the possibility of death, human nature in all its complexity, comes down to one instinctive urge, that of survival. When Tessie was in no danger she was gossiping with the other ladies and even encouraged her husband to go and pick a piece of paper. Tessie acts at first good natured and a willing participant in this evil ritual. When Tessie's family name is drawn her attitude changes drastically, and she even demands that her married daughters draw to improve her chances of survival. She demands that her daughters take their chances as well, which is indicative of regression toward our basic instinct of survival. When Tessie wins the lottery, she pleads for another chance and screams for mercy. The pieces of paper that are lifted away by the breeze are not only symbolic of the ease with which life can be taken, but is also symbolic of vast civilizations that were doomed to eventual failure for believing in and acting on tradition and not living according to the word of God. We see that even as Tessie is being stoned to death, she does not question the reasoning behind the lottery, but why it should be her that has to die. It tends to make you wonder what kind of evil resides within ourselves.

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