The Lottery Essay, Research Paper
29 February, 2000
THE BLACK BOX: SYMBOLIC OF DEATH AND FADED TRADITIONS
While the setting of Shirley Jackson?s, The Lottery, takes place on a clear, sunny, June day, it does not take long for the skies to turn gray as she introduces the readers to the black box. The black box is the central symbol of the short story. It suggest both death and necessity of change due to a combination of the passage of time and population expansion.
The reference to the black box as a symbol of death can be seen in many instance?s throughout the story. For example, when the box is first introduced, ?the villagers kept their distance, leaving a space between themselves and the stool ( which the box was placed on).? People are afraid and the distance they kept was not due to their fear of the box, but of what the box stood for . . . death. This point is further illustrated through the manner in which the box was stored. ?The rest of the year, the box was put away, sometimes one place, sometimes another; it had spent one year in Mr. Grave?s barn and another year underfoot in the post office, and sometimes it was set on a shelf in the Martin grocery and left there.? Death is not something that people deal with everyday. Human beings deal with death very similar to the way that the towns people stored the black box. People place their experiences with death in different rooms and shelves of their hearts.
The black box also symbolizes the need for a new tradition and the reluctance of the townspeople to accept change. The black box is a symbol of the lottery itself. The physical appearance of the box suggest that it was not only the black box that needed to be replaced but the tradition of the lottery . ?The black box grew shabbier each year; by now it was no longer completely black but splintered badly along one side to show the original wood color, and in some places faded or stained.? As the physical appearance of the black box deteriorated so did the appropriateness of the tradition.
Mr. Adams revealed in his conversation with Old Man Warner that many of the towns surrounding them had already ceased the lottery tradition and many more were in the process of discussing it, thus further proving that the lottery has lost its significance. In reply to Mr. Adams remarks, Old Man Warner says, ?There?s always been a lottery .? and ?Nothing but trouble in that, pack of young fools.? Old Man Warner?s response to Mr. Adams exemplifies the unwillingness of the townspeople to change the tradition and the townspeople?s failure to accept the need for change.
The dark clouds that came into view when the box was first introduced become a full fledged storm at the conclusion of the story. The black box became the ultimate symbol of death as it is the very vechile that delivers the unfortunate winner?s prize which is death by stoning. The storm of immoral and unethical actions is further propelled by the momentum that came from the townspeople?s extreme degree of self interest. The terrible tradition was carried out once again. Instead of considering the effect that the tradition had on their fellow man they were grateful that the black box had blessed them with their own lives. As far as they were concerned the sky was blue and the sun was still shining.