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Killing And Kindness In The Lottery

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In 'The Lottery” by Shirley Jackson there is a lot of pointless violence. Her story emphasizes the idea that all Americans are constantly trying to do bad. The yearly ritual of the lottery promotes the killing of an innocent individual each time the lottery is conducted. Throughout history as well as currently, there have continuously been multiple acts of kindness and cruelty in America. Although, there will always be violent individuals in America it does not mean that all Americans are bad.

During the story the people “gather in the square” (Jackson,1) on the morning of June 27th each year to participate in the lottery. Even though the lottery has been going on for many years there hasn’t been much change with the way it is run or the materials used. Originally, each person’s name was written on chips of wood and put into a wooden black box that had been used “even before Old Man Warner, the oldest man in the town, was born” (Jackson, 2). Afterward, the box was put onto a three legged stool and the name of the individual whose life was at stake was chosen. Over the years the procedure of the lottery changed slightly. This particular year, they decided to continue to use the three legged stool and the same black box but they wrote their names on paper. Tessie Hutchinson picked the slip of paper with a black mark, which meant she was the winner of the lottery. Immediately after Tessie unfolded her paper all the people of the community, including her friends and family began throwing stones at her and she died. The people thought they were doing good for the community by having the yearly lottery. The community as a whole believed that eradicating the lottery would have a destructive effect on the city. As demonstrated when Mrs. Adams said “Some places have already quit lotteries” and Old Man Warner answered that there is “Nothing but trouble in that...pack of young fools” (Jefferson, 5). Everyone in the community thought of the yearly lottery as tradition. Tampering with tradition as well as canceling the lottery was considered absurd to the villagers. The people of the village would not even replace the broken stool or black box, so the chance of them stopping the lottery was very slim. When Old Man Warner says “Lottery in June, corn will be heavy soon”(Jackson, 5). The people believed that by giving a human sacrifice, the corn harvest will be better in the coming year which is purely based on superstition. In reality, the villagers were killing an innocent person for no legitimate reason.

Shirley Jackson provides a direct quote in an article from the New Yorker explaining her reasoning for writing The Lottery. She says “I suppose I hoped, by setting a particularly brutal ancient rite in the present and in my own village, to shock the story’s readers with a graphic dramatization of the pointless violence and general inhumanity in their own lives” (Franklin). Shirley Jackson explains that her purpose for writing the lottery was to open people's eyes and make them aware of the daily pointless violence. She hints to the fact that Americans are toxic and only want to cause harm. However, there are individuals within American society that may not be doing things for the good of society but are not acting violently.

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Although, aggressive events occur within society they can sometimes bring out kindness in others and lead to positive outcomes. For example, America's Missing Broadcast Emergency Response (Amber alerts) used to help with the most serious cases of finding lost or abducted individuals, usually children. “The horrifying kidnapping and murder of 9-year-old Amber Hagerman in Arlington, Texas in broad daylight in 1996 eventually inspired the creation of the AMBER (America's Missing Broadcast Emergency Response) Alert system for rescuing abducted children” (Griffen). When children are abducted they are ripped away from their families by people that most likely have ill intentions and will be aggressive towards them. This situation can be dangerous and frightening for the families and children alike. Therefore, it is necessary for the children to be rescued from the abductor. Providing society with the use of AMBER alerts gives individuals far and near to the children a way to help in this dire situation. For example, a child was able to be saved from danger in as little as three hours as a result of an amber alert that was sent out earlier (Griffin). Since amber alerts are so public and far reaching it makes people aware of the tragedy and feel a sense of obligation to get involved.

In addition, September 11, 2001 was a catastrophic event that led to a lot of destruction and yet there was an abundance of kindness as a result. “Within an hour after the attack on the World Trade Center, the nation experienced the largest surge of blood donations in history” (Jones). As people heard about the crashing of the twin towers and the multiple injuries they were eager to help. Most people wanted to get involved and assist in any way they could. As a result, there was a huge amount of people offering to donate blood to help revive those that were injured in the crash of the planes or the falling of the towers. After the blood donations concluded, a study was conducted and showed more than 50% of the donors had never donated before or hadn't donated in the past two years. This tragic event brought out the generosity of various individuals. Without this tragic event multiple people wouldn’t have gotten involved or done this kindness. This act was primarily done for the primary purpose of destruction but additionally led to bringing out the good in many individuals.

While The Lottery demonstrates a ritualized violent event which does not seem to have positive outcomes, destructive events sometimes have positive components to them. Through the Amber alert system and the blood donation following September 11, 2001 it is apparent that acts of aggression can be met with acts of kindness. Within American society there are many people that exhibit violence but, there are other individuals who aim to improve society.

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Killing And Kindness In The Lottery. (2022, February 17). Edubirdie. Retrieved March 5, 2024, from
“Killing And Kindness In The Lottery.” Edubirdie, 17 Feb. 2022,
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Killing And Kindness In The Lottery [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2022 Feb 17 [cited 2024 Mar 5]. Available from:
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