Traditions in “The Lottery” by Shirley Jackson

Short stories such as Jackson’s “The Lottery” often deliver the point of view of their authors regarding a particular issue or topic due to the pace of their narration and the intended moral of the story. Jackson’s work presents an excellent example of the impact of foreshadowing on a reader’s perspective on the discussed issue. While several ideas can be analyzed, I found the depiction of tradition in Jackson’s story genuinely fascinating. My thesis is that the author’s intention is not to abolish traditions but to usher people to keep only those traditions that make sense. In this essay, I would like to explore the topic of traditions, especially outdated ones, in the views presented by Shirley Jackson in “The Lottery”.

The story takes place on a single day, which appears to have a special meaning that is known to all attendants. The peaceful scenes that the author puts in front of a reader present a calm and everyday life of a rural location somewhere deep within the country’s borders. Jackson reveals the casual tone of the event as she writes that “the people had done it so many times that they only half listened to the directions.” The event that takes place appears to be a lottery, but it is unknown what is the reason for it, and neither does the author reveal the outcome. To a reader’s confusion and, perhaps, horror, the unusual calmness of the crowd persists throughout the lottery, even when it turns out that the “winner” of the lottery is going to be stoned to death (Jackson).

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The primary factor that adds to the horror of the depicted event is the lack of concern among the general public towards the planned execution of a random person. Moreover, stoning in this story is not some kind of punishment, at least not for an actual crime that a person has committed. To emphasize the absurdity of this old tradition, Jackson writes that “the villagers had forgotten the ritual and lost the original black box.” There is no explanation why this person needs to be sacrificed, and neither are there any initial elements that survive through time to remind people of its meaning.

There is a second pointer towards specifics of traditions that the author depicts as detrimental to society. There is no direct explanation of the outcome that is to be expected if the dire tradition from the story is ignored. The only mention that Jackson gives regarding this point is that there would be “nothing but trouble.” Such a broad conclusion gives a reader an idea that the people themselves do not remember the very reasons why the lottery began in the first place. However, as they continue to partake in this ritual, they adhere to no reason, replacing logic with mindless obedience.

The author delivers her remarks regarding the meaninglessness of some traditions through the mode of narration through which a reader is kept aware of an unknown yet dreadful connotation that this encounter has. However, through Jackson’s masterful delivery, there are no direct clues towards the reasons behind such a gruesome ritual. The author’s point concerns the value of traditions whose meaning has been lost long ago, as well as those that have no basis for existence. The lottery that villagers partake in depicts old, pointless, and even harmful rituals that have no place in modern society.

Work Cited

Jackson, Shirley. “The Lottery.” The New Yorker, 1948, Web.

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AssignZen. (2022, December 31). Traditions in “The Lottery” by Shirley Jackson. Retrieved from https://assignzen.com/traditions-in-the-lottery-by-shirley-jackson/

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