Untitled Essay Research Paper The differences between

Untitled Essay, Research Paper

The differences between “The Lottery” by Shirley Jackson and “The Ones Who

Walk Away from Omelas” by Ursula K. Le Guin seem relatively minor when compared

to the striking similarities they contain in setting, symbols, and theme.

Each of the stories begin with a description of a beautiful

summer day. “The flowers were blooming profusely and the grass was richly

green”(para 1) in “The Lottery” is quite comparable to “old moss-grown gardens

and under avenues of trees”(para 1) in “…Omelas.” These descriptions (along

with several others) provide positive connotations and allow the reader to

relax into what seems to be a comfortable setting in either story. Both stories

also contain a gathering of townspeople. In “…Omelas there is music, dance,

and special attire incorporated in the gathering, whereas in “The Lottery,”

the women show up “wearing faded house dresses and sweaters.” Although Le

Guin’s environment seems more festive, all the folks in both stories are

coming together for what seems to be enjoyable, even celebratory occasions.

However, I believe the major similarity lies in the fact that these many

pleasant details create a facade within each story. The reader is then left

ill-prepared when the shocking, brutally violent, ritualistic traditions

are exposed.

Children are an important focus in both stories. Jackson

makes it easy for us to imagine their “boisterous play”(para 2), and Le Guin

writes “their high calls rising like swallows’ crossing flights over the

music and the singing”(para1). I see these children being used to symbolize

perceived states of happiness in both stories. I also believe they are vital

necessities in each story because they are taught and expected to carry

traditions into the future. For instance, in “The Lottery,” “someone gave

little Davy Hutchinson a few pebbles”(para 76), he is then able to participate

in the stoning of his own mother, and in “…Omelas,” the tradition “is usually

explained to children when they are between eight and twelve”(para 10), and

of course, the victim in this tale is a child.

The fact that both authors include references to farming

may be due to the association between farming and tradition. I know many

people who believe that farming is a way of life that is handed down from

generation to generation, it is very much a tradition to them. The men in

“The Lottery” are “speaking of planting and rain, tractors and taxes”(para

3) and in “…Omelas,” the farmer’s market is described as nothing less than

“magnificent”(para 3). The most obvious reason for these references is that

the rituals performed in both stories are suppose to have an effect on harvest.

“Lottery in June, corn be heavy soon”(para 32) in “The Lottery” used to be

a saying heard in their community. And in “…Omelas,” “the abundance of

their harvest”(para 9), along with many other things, supposedly depended

upon their performing the certain ritual.

Although the reasons for the traditions are slightly different

in each story, the rituals themselves are very much alike. Both are shocking

and both involve the sacrifice of a human being. Because the sacrifice in

“The Lottery” is chosen strictly by chance, age is not a determinant, whereas

in “…Omelas” the sacrifice is always a child. However, regardless of this

difference, when the time comes, victims in each of these tales begins pleading

for release from their inevitable doom. The child in “…Omelas” says “Please

let me out. I will be good!”(para 8), while in “The Lottery,” Tessie screams,

“It isn’t fair, it isn’t right”(para 79). In Le Guin’s story, death comes

through slow, twisted torture. The naked child sacrifice is locked in a dark

cellar room, fed only a small portion of cornmeal and grease once a day,

and is allowed no desirable human contact or communication. In “The Lottery”

the sacrifice is simply stoned to death by the remaining community, including

friends and family, although this isn’t quite as sickening as the method

in the other story, it is horrible and wicked nonetheless.

Although it is stated in “…Omelas” that “they all understand

that their happiness, the beauty of their city, the tenderness of their

friendships, the health of their children, the wisdom of their scholars,

the skill of their makers, even the abundance of their harvest and the kindly

weather of their skies, depend wholly on this child’s abominable misery,”(para

9) there is evidence that not all agree with it. In fact, after young people

see the victim in it’s abhorrent condition, they are described as “shocked

and sickened at the sight”(para 10), and “often the young people go home

in tears, or in a tearless rage”(para 12). In “The Lottery,” many parts of

the ritual had been altered or long forgotten by most of the people, this

fact in itself, along with a few other clues tell me that not everyone agrees

with it either. One of the characters says “seems like there’s no time at

all between lotteries anymore”(para 22), which leads me to believe that she

wishes they weren’t performed as often, or at all, and another states that

she hopes it’s not one of her friends that is chosen(para 66).

Based in part on the afore mentioned statements, I have

interpreted the themes in each story to be identical to one another. Not

only do I believe that many disagree with the practice of both rituals, I

also think that the individual feels helpless in putting a stop to them.

The actions of each community as a whole seems much greater than the sum

of its inhabitants. For example, Le Guin writes that some youngsters and

“sometimes also a man or women much older” will walk alone “straight out

of the city of Omelas, through the beautiful gates”(para 14). Instead of

standing up and saying they don’t believe the ritual is right, they do what

is easier for them, they just leave. In “The Lottery,” Mrs. Adams mentions

to Old Man Warner “that over in the north village they’re talking of giving

up the lottery”(para 31) and that “Some places have already quit the

lotteries”(para 33), and he replies as a defender of the ritual by referring

to the quitters as a “Pack of crazy fools” and says “There’s always been

a lottery”(para 32). Although she doesn’t say it in so many words, I find

it obvious that she feels that the ritual is outmoded and should be put to

an end. This in combination with the fact that the majority of townspeople

don’t even remember the reasons behind the ritual, has led me to the conclusion

that they only continue the process for “tradition’s sake.” Parallel in these

two stories is the fact that


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