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Concept Of Change In Shirley Jackson’s The Lottery And Kurt Vonnegut’s Harrison Bergeron

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There always comes a time where a change in life needs to happen. Change is not always negative; it sometimes can be positive depending on the situation you are dealing with. You will never know how it can affect you if you never try to attempt it. In Shirley Jackson’s “The Lottery” and Kurt Vonnegut’s “Harrison Bergeron”, there were people who feared change because of the possible consequences they may face. We only see that perspective from two main characters in “Harrison Bergeron” and mainly one character in “The Lottery”. In one story people knew the consequences of the tradition they were participating in while the others attempted to change and was punished for doing so causing the rest of the society to live in the same way. In ‘The Lottery’ and ‘Harrison Bergeron’, there is a fear of change that comes with severe repercussions that modify the minds and lives of the citizens negatively forever.

These stories both present a dystopian world that these people, unfortunately, had to deal with themselves. When reading ‘The Lottery’ we were brainwashed to think the lottery was a good thing when in reality it was not. It was not a lottery where you win money, in the end, it was the lottery of people sacrificing their lives for other people. The sacrifice of the life killed was for the people not killed to gain more crops. So, with them gaining crops they felt that it was right for someone to die just for them to profit off it.

In “Harrison Bergeron” the government distracted the minds of their people by placing dancers on the T.V. This distraction kept the people from recognizing the wrongs being done to them as they were smart enough to figure it out had they had a real There is no unique individuality between the people as the government makes everyone the same.

However, “The Lottery” also displays a deceptive appearance of a utopian world where is everything was made to seem perfect. There was nothing wrong with hosting the lottery or making the prize of the lottery death instead of something positive. Even with someone being stoned every year at the lottery it never crossed anyone’s mind that we are killing for again. Not a single person attempted to change the minds of the participants of how the ending result will affect families. Killing mothers and fathers only show the children that killing is always the right thing to do.

These stories have a conflict of man vs. society that was a major issue for them to the shank and a major indicator of the climax of the story. In “The Lottery” Tess who represents the man argues with the town who represents the society about how she felt the lottery was unfair because she won the lottery. In reality, she did not win the lottery, the lottery won her. In “Harrison Bergeron” Harrison who represents the man argues with the government about handicapping his strengths. He gets close to overpowering the government but is killed before he can do so completely.

In both of these stories, there are people who against their will participate in traditions set. The tradition was a lottery held every year and a town of people being the same and being mistreated by the government. The lottery was the killing of a citizen from different families as their names were drawn and they were stoned to death. The mistreatment of the citizens by the government was forcing them to wear headphones to prevent them from thinking or making others walk with shotgun pellets to prevent them from being strong or faster. These both diminished the real purpose of life as for one society you had no way around death it was only luck if you were stoned for that year and another society where you were limited from being successful and you had no help from anyone as your fellow citizens were the same as you.

Both of these stories display people never attempting to speak out against the wrongdoing that was being done to them. The individuals never questioned their leaders on why the traditions that were forced upon them even existed. They never questioned the other citizens on why they continue to follow the harmful traditions or why they won’t find a way to get rid of the leaders. No one in either story came together to even discuss why the traditions were mandatory for them to follow. The participants of the lottery should have interrogated why the result of the lottery was being stoned to death. Even though it may have been hard for the people of the Bergeron story to even understand how to question the government it was not stated that it was impossible. There were however in both stories’ main reasons why no one ever thought to ask or go against the traditions and that reason was death and depletion of true human life. It was unfair for anyone to even live in that type of society.

In “The Lottery” the people automatically knew what they had to do even though they were told multiple times. Mr. Summers who directed the lottery stated, “Now I’ll read the names- heads of families first- and the men come up and take a paper out of the box keep the paper folded in your hand without looking at it until everyone has a turn everything clear” (Jackson 640). The reaction from the participants was half-listened and dry. They had done it for so long that did not need a reminder but with him being dominant he did it anyway. The people lived their life letting this man control the possible last moments of their lives. That life to the entire society became ordinary to the point they felt it was nothing wrong with living like that.

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In “Harrison Bergeron” the two characters George and Hazel deal with physical and mental disabilities ordered by the government. Similar to “The Lottery” in the aspect of their life being controlled by someone but in their case, in their case it was the Handicapper General Diane Moon Glampers, but their laws were not repeated multiple times as they were already aware of them. They were given these disabilities to make them equal with everyone else so that one could be more advanced than others. As stated in the story, “Nobody was smarter than anybody else, Nobody was better looking than anybody else, Nobody was stronger or quicker than anybody else” (Vonnegut). This created a society of equality but not in a fairway. The leaders of these towns manipulated the minds of their citizens by making them think there was such thing as freedom by taking away their freedom of speech and their freedom to think about the meaning of human life. The people of these stories were forced to live off the ideas of other people and not their own.

Sadly, both of these stories had similar endings that we would never hope for but happen sometimes in literature. In ‘The Lottery’ during the lottery the only character who recognized what was right and what was wrong was Tess. In the end, Tess Hutchinson is stoned to death because of that. She takes the ultimate sacrifice of death before she had the chance to rebel against the ballots that determined her being stoned. The main influencer in her death would have been Mr. Summers. This is because for two reasons. The first is he was the only conductor of the lottery and he officially opened the lottery. Second, he draws the names and creates the slips that belong to the black box. The lottery is only possible with him and Tess had no help from anyone as they all obeyed his orders to stone her.

In “Harrison Bergeron” Harrison who is above average intelligence than everyone else wants to put an end to the way society is treating the citizens of his country. He wanted everyone to have average intelligence like him, but he mainly wanted them to have the freedom to be like they wanted to be. He attempts to do this for everyone but only gets a slight number of people freed before he is killed by the handicapper general. The general took away his chance to help others.

Unlike Tess who technically needed help from others, Harrison attempted to help others as he became upset at the distribution of handicaps as their only representation of themselves. But both stories show how no importance of every life was created but only of how society governed their lives in an obstructive and manner.

The themes of these two stories differ in ways that show us, readers, how to identify when you are receiving unjust treatment. The theme of ‘ Harrison Bergeron’ is no matter how hard you try, no one will ever be equal. It is never fair to make every person in one society the same whether it is a physical trait or a mental trait. One person should not be the only one to attempt in making a change for the better of society. It should be a wholesome effort from everyone so you can at least say everyone put to make a change. Whether you are successful or not, it is better to know you have a large participation rather than small participation.

The theme of ‘The Lottery’ is unseeingly following traditions will only lead to harmful consequences. Just because there is a tradition in place does not mean that it cannot be changed. But as stated before it takes a large group effort to overcome a dominant force who does not want to see the town happy. Traditions are generally happy and not deadly. It should never be to a point that an innocent life has to be taken all for a lottery game. The lottery should not even be used for this kind of purpose as a person is gambling their own life away not money-wise but for their life that you only get one of. People have to be able to notice when there is a situation that is not fair for all citizens and have to attempt to speak up it regardless of the consequence. It is better to die striving to save people than just being outright murdered.

Harrison Bergeron’s story was a better example of having bravery for the sake of others and not just for your good. He didn’t just let his community murder him instead he showed more courage than anyone else and spoke out against the government. He showed us, readers, that it is not always required that you just sit around and allow bad things to happen to you but that it takes you to start a movement for change. Harrison had more than just average intelligence he had the intelligence to run the government himself. He could change the government from controlling the people to the people controlling their own lives. Had he lived maybe there could have been the change that I felt could have been there that would have bettered the lives of the people that enabled them to control their own decisions and have complete freedom.

To conclude the reasoning behind this essay, there were similarities and differences listed that showed fear of complete change. The people of these societies never knew that a real quality of life consisted of freedom and happiness. They only knew that one person controlled the decisions of their life and everything that person said do was the correct thing to do and there was no wrong behind it. They also knew that if they went against what their selected leader that there may be deadly consequences that brought out the fear in them. Even with that, there were opportunities for someone to step up and have the courage to put a complete end to the controlling orders that surrounded their lives. Harris attempted to do so and lost his life doing so and no one went behind him to support what he wanted to do and tried to do anything better than he did. Instead, the society was controlled by two figures who had no remorse for the unfairness they showed on their citizens. In the end, for a society to be positive and fair you must have leaders who want the best not just for themselves but for everyone they are leading. It is also essential that you enforce change when it is necessary to and not just hold on to the same traditions that have been followed for the longest time. This will only ensure that everyone is happy and there is a reason for fear to find its way into the lives of people who are trying to be positive where for people who don’t suffer the consequences. Where everyone has equal opportunities at different things but are not identified as the same or forced to change their physical appearance like the one of someone else.

Works Cited Page

  1. Jackson, Shirley. “The Lottery.” Fiction 100: An Anthology of Short Fiction, by James H. Pickering, Pearson, 2012, pp. 638–642.
  2. Vonnegut, Kurt. “HARRISON BERGERON.” Harrison Bergeron, www.tnellen.com/cybereng/harrison.html.

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Concept Of Change In Shirley Jackson’s The Lottery And Kurt Vonnegut’s Harrison Bergeron. (2022, March 18). Edubirdie. Retrieved October 3, 2022, from https://edubirdie.com/examples/concept-of-change-in-shirley-jacksons-the-lottery-and-kurt-vonneguts-harrison-bergeron/
“Concept Of Change In Shirley Jackson’s The Lottery And Kurt Vonnegut’s Harrison Bergeron.” Edubirdie, 18 Mar. 2022, edubirdie.com/examples/concept-of-change-in-shirley-jacksons-the-lottery-and-kurt-vonneguts-harrison-bergeron/
Concept Of Change In Shirley Jackson’s The Lottery And Kurt Vonnegut’s Harrison Bergeron. [online]. Available at: <https://edubirdie.com/examples/concept-of-change-in-shirley-jacksons-the-lottery-and-kurt-vonneguts-harrison-bergeron/> [Accessed 3 Oct. 2022].
Concept Of Change In Shirley Jackson’s The Lottery And Kurt Vonnegut’s Harrison Bergeron [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2022 Mar 18 [cited 2022 Oct 3]. Available from: https://edubirdie.com/examples/concept-of-change-in-shirley-jacksons-the-lottery-and-kurt-vonneguts-harrison-bergeron/
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