The Lottery Literary Analysis
Table of Contents
Shirley Jackson’s piece “The Lottery” immerses itself in the theme of ritual. A short story is generally judged on its ability to convey the deep meaning of characters and themes. Shirley illustrates a miniature village that performs an annual tradition recalled as the “lottery”. Telling in the third person, Shirley uses irony, foreshadowing, and anticipation to highlight the dangers of blindly following custom.
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Symbolism in “The Lottery”
Shirley uses symbolism to illustrate the inhuman traditions of the village. The “lottery” and its rules represent a violent behavior, action or idea that is being transmitted from generation to generation and mindlessly carried on regardless of how wrong or confusing it is. The lottery has been going on in the village for as long as anyone can recall (Jackson 315). The villagers attend the lottery simply because it exists, without considering the fact that they are murdering someone every year. The old black box embodies an outdated tradition as well as the ridiculousness of the peasants who observe it, as shown in “the black box grew shabbier each year… it was no longer completely black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” (Jackson 312). Lastly, old Warner is a symbol of mindlessly following insane traditions. He believes that committing the lottery is a deranged and unreasonable act (Jackson 315).
Techniques used in “The Lottery”
Shirley reveals the theme of the danger of barbaric traditions, implementing the techniques of foreshadowing. Most of the seemingly insignificant details in the story indicate a tragic ending. “Bobby Martin had already stuffed his pockets full of stones… the other boys…selecting the smoothest and roundest stones” looks like a harmless game until at the end of the story they are utilized to kill Tessie (Jackson 311). Mr. Summer’s remark, when she appears in the square, is predictive of Tessie’s fate “Thought we were going to have to get on without you” (Jackson 313). Moreover, it is comprehensible that the tension increases over the course of the day as the villagers expect to participate in the lottery. The third paragraph reveals the mood of the day: the men smile rather than laugh; the children are unwilling to respond when called, and the women are busy gossiping (Jackson 312). In addition, the behaviors of the children indicate that they can recognize the ritual and be concerned about participating in the stoning. This further reveals the foreshadowing of the lottery tradition.
Jackson introduces the topic of the “lottery” ritual through a series of intense moments in the story. By covering the motivation behind the villagers’ actions, the author provides suspense in the story until Tessie gets the first stone (Jackson 317). The narrator explains a lot of information about the lottery in the context of ancient traditions, but the exact nature and objective of the ritual is not made clear until the end of the story. She gives a clue when she underlines that the villagers still remember the use of stones. After the first stone is thrown, though, Shirley clearly depicts the nature of the ritual. Withholding essential information until the end of the story, Shirley carefully introduces the subject of the tradition to an unaware audience.
Telling the story in the third person
It is worth mentioning that due to the use of the third person point of view, Shirley successfully manages to present her topic of gypsy traditions in a dispassionate and objective way. As a contrast to the presentation of the story from the perspective of each character, the narrator single-handedly deploys the lottery ritual. The author’s point of view is intended to suppress the sensational discovery at the end of the story. The proper aim of the ritual can nothing but be discovered from the nervous feelings of the public, “…he blinked his eyes nervously and ducked his head…” (Jackson 314). From an objective point of view, Shirley succeeds in uncovering the cruel ritual of the lottery.
Telling the story in the third person, Shirley employs symbolism, foreshadowing and intrigue to highlight the risks of blind devotion to barbaric customs. The village Lottery, a bizarre tradition that ends in brutal murder every year, explores the dangers of absolute compliance with customs. The unfortunate destiny of Tessie Hutchinson, which culminates in a violent ritual, causes the audience to doubt the morality of traditions in society.