The Lottery Essay, Research Paper
27 June bisects the summer soltstice and Independence Day, which is a contrast between superstitious paganism and rational democracy. The sunny day and the blooming of flowers indicate a happy, festive occasion. The reader does not realize that The Lottery is not a happy occasion until its tragic end. The reader can never perceive something so holocaustic happening in 20th Century America. Initially, the reader thinks that the lottery is a modern day lottery in which something of monetary value is won. Ironically, the only thing that is won is the head of one of the members of the village to satisfy traditional belief and practice.
At no point does the author indicate the location of The Lottery; However, the Salem witch trials in 1692 in Massachusetts which resulted in 14 women and 6 men being executed indicates that The Lottery could have taken place in New England. Historically, there was a well-known New England woman named Anne Hutchinson. The General Court of Massachusetts tried Anne Hutchinson in 1637 for her antinomian beliefs. She was found guilty, excommunicated from the church, and banished from the colony. Ironically, Tessie Hutchinson shares Anne Hutchinson s last name who is from New England. Both women were excommunicated in some manner, Anne by the church and Tessie from the community by sacrifice. They both had some individual beliefs. Anne s belief was antinomian and Tessie s belief is that of self-survival that is manifested by her hypocritical outburst, it isn t fair, it isn t right (322). Tessie Hutchinson belief is self-survival because her nonchalant attitude towards the lottery shows when she runs to the square because she was late, and joking around with the crowd. When it is her family time to draw from the box, she urges her husband to get up there, Bill (319). She would have eagerly participated in the stoning along with the others, however, when her family is chosen she sees the gruesome reality of the occasion.
The surnames Delacroix, Summers, Graves, Adams and Warner are all symbolic to the story s plot. When Mrs. Hutchinson arrives late at the ceremony, she chats sociably with Mrs. Delacroix. The narrator states, Mrs. Hutchinson tapped Mrs. Delacroix on the arm as a farewell (318). Delacroix means of the cross which is a pseudo-crucifixion of Mrs. Hutchinson, because Mrs. Delacroix chooses a stone so large she had to pick it up with both hands (322). Mr. Summers is a jovial man who is in charge of the lottery that takes place every summer. He sets the tone with his name and mannerism of a happy, sunny, picnic-like atmosphere, which betrays the serious consequence of the lottery. Mr. Graves on the other hand quietly lurks behind Mr. Summers as his assistant. Mr. Graves name hints at a dark, eerie undertone, which is symbolic of digging graves, in which the winner of the lottery will be buried. After the villagers move in for the kill, Mrs. Graves stands in the front of the crowd, symbolizing a grave ready to receive the body. Adams in Hebrew means man, which represents mankind in general. His suggestion that some places have already quit lotteries, (319) is symbolic of man s inherent need to lean towards violence. Mr. Warner constantly warns the townspeople about the main reason of the lottery, lottery in June, corn be heavy soon (319). Mr. Warner is the oldest man in town because the others have either died or killed off. His comments indicate that he is the only one that remembers the seriousness of the occasion, it s not the way it used to be (321).
The black box is very symbolic in nature from its simple construction to the color and its deteriorating appearance. The simple construction of the black box symbolizes the primitive nature of the occasion. It is splintered badly along one side faded or stained, (317) symbolizing the townspeople hesitation and reluctance to repair or build a new box because the ritual is an outdated and primitive practice. However, they cling to the tradition by continuing the ritual and talk of replacing the box, but all that talk just fade off with nothing being done (317). The color of the black box symbolizes death, evil, and irrationalism, which are all of the elements of the ceremony. The villagers focus on the gruesome rather than the symbolic nature because although the ritual had been allowed to lapse (317), and no one wants to replace the deteriorated box, they still remembered to use stones (322). When Mr. Summers set the black box on the stool, the townspeople are hesitant to help steady it, the villagers kept their distance, leaving a space between themselves and the stool (316). Their apprehension and nervousness towards the black box is because of its sacrificial contents which contains a list of heads of families, head of households in each families (317). The box is closed and locked up (317), which symbolizes mystery and uncertainty of which head will be chosen. Although the ritual is primitive, they justify the act as always been a lottery (319).
On an individual basis, the stoning of Mrs. Hutchinson would be deemed murder, but as a group, it is classified as tradition because everyone does it. Mrs. Hutchinson and Mrs. Delacroix are obviously friends, however, the author states that Mrs. Delacroix chooses the biggest stone. Shirley Jackson uses The Lottery to show the horror in an ordinary village by their irrational ritual, and how they lean towards violence to justify their act instead of a civilized, modern tradition.