“The Lottery” Essay, Research Paper
The Role of Tradition in “The Lottery”
Throughout time, tradition has played a key role in all culture’s lives. They shape the way a culture lives and interacts with the world around them. Traditions bring one another together and it is a time to enjoy each other’s presence. Traditions are carried out because that is what has been done in times passed and that is what people view as the right thing to do. Traditions have been passed down from generation, to generation, to generation. It is this repetition that keeps these traditions alive today. In Shirley Jackson’s “The Lottery”, tradition plays a key role in keeping one town happy, and peaceful. The lottery occurs every year on June 27. It consists of all the townspeople choosing a slip of paper from a box. If your paper has a mark on it, you are the one who will be stoned to death that year. Although the lottery may be a little morally unjust, it is still a tradition, and traditions are hard to brake. The lottery in the town is the backbone of the community; it not only serves as a day of socialization but also one may see it as a sacrificial offering.
The lottery for the town brings a day of conversation and happiness. The boys run around and gather rocks. The girls talk to one another and the woman “ . . . greeted one another and exchanged bits of gossip as they went to join their husbands” (634). The men gather, “ . . . surveying their own children, speaking of planting and rain, tractors and taxes” (634). The lottery is used to bring people together and is viewed like any other fun filled town event, “The lottery was conducted – as were the square dances, the teen-age club, the Halloween program – by Mr. Summers, who had time and energy to devote to civic activities” (634). During the time of Mrs. Hutchinson’s stoning people were having a good time and enjoying themselves, “Mrs. Delacroix selected a stone . . . and turned to Mrs. Dunbar. ‘Come on,’ she said. ‘Hurry up’ ” (640).
The adults were not the only ones joining in on the “fun”, “The children had stones already, and someone gave little Davy Hutchinson a few pebbles” (640). Old Man Warner also joined in on the ritual, “ ‘Come on, Come on; everyone’ ” (640). One can see how much the town looks forward to this event, due to the excitement of the crowd. Not only is the lottery there to allow the people to socialize and enjoy themselves, but it is also thought to be a very important sacrificial offering to help with the seasons crops.
The townspeople believe the lottery is beneficial to the town’s existence and stability. One may see it as a sacrificial offering to that which controls the growth of the crops for that season. “Used to be a saying about ‘Lottery in June, corn heavy soon.’ First thing you know we’d all be eating stewed chickweed and acorns. There’s always been a lottery, [Old Man Warner] added petulantly” (637). This is a lot like ancient tribes who used to sacrifice animals and sometimes people to their Gods. They would do this to make sure their crops were plentiful and their tribes were at peace. People in the town believe that those villages who don’t see the lottery valuable are ignorant and liable for a downfall in the community. “Mr. Adams said to Old Man Warner . . . ‘that over in the north village they’re talking of giving up the lottery.’ Old Man Warner snorted. ‘Pack of crazy fools,’ he said. ‘Listening to the young folks, nothings good enough for them. Next thing you know, they’ll be wanting to go back to living in caves, nobody work anymore, live that way for a while’” (637). This shows how one could view the lottery as a sacrificial offering that is used to keep the town stable and at peace.
In conclusion one town’s stability and prosperity is based on a single tradition, the lottery. It is the backbone of the community, not only does it serve as a day of socialization for the town, but also as a day of sacrificial offering. If this is not performed each year, the townspeople believe the town will be ruined. They believe the town will either lose its crops for the season or the town’s community, as a whole will unravel. From these two significant statements one can see why this tradition is so vital to this little towns existence.