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Oppressed Societies in The Lottery and Harrison Bergeron

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One of the best qualities humans have in life is freedom, however when it is removed, life becomes something not very pleasant. Oppression of individual and collective freedom should not be included in anyone’s life, but under the authoritarian power of abusive societies, the human value of freedom is only a dream impossible to achieve. When society implements such regulations and lifestyles to its citizens, there is no other solution than to adapt to those norms even if they are against your own belief. The idea of imposing social influences over personal beliefs and values is found in the written material of the authors Shirley Jackson’s. “The Lottery”, and Kurt Vonnegut Jr.’s “Harrison Bergeron”. These two stories describe lifestyles where citizens allow their superiors to have total control, without allowing them to think freely and democratically about the rules, laws, traditions and norms that require their submission. The two reading materials offer a similar central idea, because each one talk about a community that elects to be part of a cruel, devastating and inhumane tradition, instead of allowing each individual to create their own beliefs and ideals relating to equality and freedom, but in doing so, they stop every person from this society to become a unique individual repressing their independence in their communities.

In the first story “The Lottery”, the villagers of a small town gather together in the square on June 27, a beautiful day, for the town yearly lottery. In other towns, the lottery takes longer, but there are only 300 people in this village, so the lottery takes only two hours. Village children, who have just finished school for the summer, run around happily collecting stones. They put the stones in their pockets and make a huge pile of stones in the square. Men gather next, followed by the women. Parents call their children over, and families stand together. Mr. Summers runs the lottery because he has a lot of time to do things for the village. He arrives in the square with the black box, followed by Mr. Graves, the postmaster. This black box is not the original box used for the lottery because the original was lost many years ago, even before the town elder, Old Man Warner, was born. Mr. Summers always suggests that they make a new box because the existing one is untidy, but no one wants to fool around with tradition. Mr. Summers did, however, convince the villagers to replace the traditional wood chips with slips of paper. Mr. Summers mixes up the slips of paper in the box. He and Mr. Graves made the papers the night before and then locked up the box at Mr. Summers’s coal company. Before the lottery can begin, they make a list of all the families and households in the village. Some people remember that in the past there used to be a song and salute, but these have been lost. Tessie Hutchinson joins the crowd, nervous because she had forgotten that today was the day of the lottery. She joins her husband and children at the front of the crowd, and people joke about her late arrival. Mr. Summers asks whether anyone is absent, and the crowd responds that Dunbar is not there. Mr. Summers asks who will draw for Dunbar, and Mrs. Dunbar says she will because she does not have a son who’s old enough to do it for her. Mr. Summers asks whether the Watson boy will draw, and he answers that he will. Mr. Summers then asks to make sure that Old Man Warner is there too. Mr. Summers reminds everyone about the lottery’s rules: he will read names, and the family heads come up and draw a slip of paper. No one should look at the paper until everyone has drawn. He calls all the names, greeting each person as they come up to draw a paper. Mr. Adams tells Old Man Warner that people in the north village might stop the lottery, and Old Man Warner ridicules young people. He says that giving up the lottery could lead to a return to living in caves. Mrs. Adams also says the lottery has already been given up in other villages, and Old Man Warner says that is “nothing but trouble.” Mr. Summers finishes calling names, and everyone opens his or her papers. Word quickly gets around that Bill Hutchinson has “got it.” Tessie argues that it wasn’t fair because Bill didn’t have enough time to select a paper. Mr. Summers asks whether there are any other households in the Hutchinson family, and Bill says no, because his married daughter draws with her husband’s family. Mr. Summers asks how many kids Bill has, and he answers that he has three. Tessie protests again that the lottery wasn’t fair. Mr. Graves dumps the papers out of the box onto the ground and then puts five papers in for the Hutchinson. As Mr. Summers calls their names, each member of the family comes up and draws a paper. When they open their slips, they find that Tessie has drawn the paper with the black dot on it. Mr. Summers instructs everyone to hurry up. The villagers take stones and run toward Tessie, who stands in a clearing in the middle of the crowd. Tessie says it’s not fair when she is hit in the head with a stone. Everyone begins throwing stones at her.

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In the second story “Harrison Bergeron”, takes place in the future and it is supposed to be in the United States in the year 2081. The main character is Harrison Bergeron who is fourteen years old who continues to defy the Government. This Government believes in “quality”, no one in this society can be better looking, more intelligent, or more athletic than anyone else so the handicapper general who is name is Diana Moon Glampers is in charge of determining and judging who does not comply with these regulated standards within this society. By implementing this type of “lifestyle”, this Government claimed to have equity among all its citizens. The main character Harrison does not agree with this, he states “we should not be equal, we should not be wearing this handicaps”. He believes that everyone had the right to express their unique identities. The society presented in this story is based on equality but in reality, no one is really equal. We have been taught that equality is something that is a good thing, something that we should strive for. However, in this society equality is their driving force is how they give people jobs, is how they give people a fighting chance to live.

In both societies there is lack of freedom and violation of the human rights. In the first analysis the author Shirley Jackson represents a tradition that has as consequences the abuse and integrity of the person who loses the lottery game. In the same way, Kurt refers to the deprivation of expression that every human being is entitled by law. Both authors presented a society where abuse of power and authority harms a minority group. We have been taught that equality means being able to express our thoughts without fear of being repressed, that equality means having rights and duties as citizens, that equality means having authenticity in our actions but above all the meaning of equality is to respect others to be respected. Both environments presented uncivilized and unsuitable behaviors, such as innocent people being killed in front of their loved ones. There is not worse feeling that helplessness when a loved one is in need. The traditions displayed appear to be “innocent”, however both stories turned out to be the perfect recipe for catastrophe.

Work cited

  1. The Lottery, Shirley Jackson. http://fullreads.com/literature/the-lottery/5/
  2. Harrison Bergeron, Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. https://archive.org/stream/HarrisonBergeron/Harrison%20Bergeron_djvu.txt

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Oppressed Societies in The Lottery and Harrison Bergeron. (2022, Jun 16). Edubirdie. Retrieved November 27, 2022, from https://edubirdie.com/examples/oppressed-societies-in-the-lottery-and-harrison-bergeron/
“Oppressed Societies in The Lottery and Harrison Bergeron.” Edubirdie, 16 Jun. 2022, edubirdie.com/examples/oppressed-societies-in-the-lottery-and-harrison-bergeron/
Oppressed Societies in The Lottery and Harrison Bergeron. [online]. Available at: <https://edubirdie.com/examples/oppressed-societies-in-the-lottery-and-harrison-bergeron/> [Accessed 27 Nov. 2022].
Oppressed Societies in The Lottery and Harrison Bergeron [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2022 Jun 16 [cited 2022 Nov 27]. Available from: https://edubirdie.com/examples/oppressed-societies-in-the-lottery-and-harrison-bergeron/
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