Drawing Names In The Lottery Essay, Research Paper
Drawing Names in The Lottery
The common curse of mankind,–folly and ignorance, Shakespeare once wrote. This quotation strengthens Shirley Jackson s ideas in The Lottery , as she very distinctly uses symbolic names for her characters to show the ignorance of the sacrificial lottery the small village holds year after year. These sacrifices, which used to be held to appease the god of harvest, have grown meaningless in their culture. Jackson uses the characters not only to visualize the story for the reader but also each one has a meaning behind him/her that adds to the ultimate theme.
One of the leaders and head men of the town is Mr. Summers. Summer is a
season of the year. It is the season of growing, the season of life. His name
represents partly the old pagan fertility ritual because the harvest that is being sacrificed to is being grown in the summer. This is supposedly, according to Old Man Warner, what the lottery held each year was all about. But, in this case, the harvest should be fine because the setting of the story tells us that the flowers were blossoming profusely and the grass was richly green (74). Mr. Summers did many things to slowly ween the old tradition, the old harshness, out of the ordeal. He had the wooden chips replaced with more convienent slips of paper. He also spoke frequently…about making a new box (75), so, therefore, he also represented new ideas as well as old. The new ideas
that the close-minded village people would not accept. If given the chance, Mr.
Summers would have more than likely accepted and backed the motion to cease the
lottery and stop the sacrifice. Even though he conducted the lottery which someone was sacrificed (murdered) he is seen as one of the most innocent characters because of his new ideas and wishes for something better.
Mr. Summers, with all of his importance, had someone over him though. Mr. Graves, the postmaster, must have been of more importance and power than he
because Mr. Summers had to be sworn in by Mr. Graves before he could have the right to be the official of the lottery. As the reader might easily derrive, Mr. Graves symbolizes the sacrificial killing being caused by the lottery. His superiority over Mr. Summers is also symbolic. It shows how the sacrifice and the lottery in itself is more important than the new ideas presented by Mr. Summers and a few other villagers. But, Mr. Graves has many more villagers behind him sharing his views.
One of these is Old Man Warner. Mr. Warner is the oldest man in town and, therefore, having the most knowledge of what the original tradition was all about. He lets us know that there has always been a lottery (77). He is repetadly shown warning the younger parents and the younger generation of what they are in for if they do away with the lottery. Hence, he gets the name Warner. He claims the young folks are a pack of crazy fools and that nothing is good enough for them (77). Jackson referrs to him as Old Man Warner partly to show you his age and that he should know the most about the lottery. But, also partly to show that his oldness, his mindset that he is the wisest, is holding the community back from the good changes that could occur. For some reason, Jackson has allowed this man to live through the lottery picking seventy-seven times. It almost shows less hope for the younger
generation that the tradition will end any time soon.
The younger generation having to start taking part in this occasion is portrayed by young Jack Watson. He is finally head of the household and is drawing for his family. There is a possible chance that Jackson could have been somehow referring to a famed American psychologist by the name of John B. Watson. John B. Watson was a leading popularizer of behaviorism in Shirley Jackson s time. Behaviorism takes objective evidence of behavior (as measured responses to stimuli) as the only basis of its research and theories. In other words, young Jack Watson was supposed to be portraying the new idea of the younger generation: that they knew what they were doing was wrong because of the simple evidence of innocent people dying.
The innocent person that died this time was Mrs. Hutchinson. She is the one that drew the slip of paper that had the black dot on it which meant she was the one to be sacrificed. Jackson again uses her name appropriately. Hutch is a term for a chest or compartment for storage; basically, a box. Of course she drew that black dot out of the black box. Her fate was upon her from the beginning according to Jackson. She shows up late to the meeting joking lacadasically with the women and Mr. Summers (who was ironically the only other one late). All of her jokes turned into pleas and accusations once she visited that little black box. She made such accusations that it wasn t fair and that Mr. Summers didn t give him time enough to choose (78). Another possible meaning of her symbolic name is that a hutch also could be something along the line of a pen or coop for an animal. Mrs. Hutchinson ended up being the sacrificial animal, the scapegoat of the group. She was penned or circled
in by the rest of the town when it was time to stone her.
Shirley Jackson did a superb job communicating with the reader by a wonderful job of using the characters names to symbolize meanings that she couldn t get across to the reader any other way. She showed how Mr. Graves sacrificial killing and Old Man Warner s strong tradition was too much of a history for Mr. Summers new ideas and young Watson s realizations. Mrs. Hutchinson still got her hand in the box and the stone up the side of her head.