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The Lottery By Shirley Jackson: Ritualistic And Brutally Violent Traditions

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The Lottery was written by Shirley Jackson on June 26th, 1948. This story was done in a small rural town called Vermont where people observed an annual ritual referred to as “the lottery”. The Lottery is all about the person that would be killed by being stoned to death with rocks by people or throwing stones at the victim’s skull until it would be crushed. The story is not about the literal meaning of a lottery, however, it is about certain observed rituals which are peculiar to a given community. Shirley Jackson wrote this story to serve the primary purpose of critiquing certain rituals or ceremonies in the society that are detrimental to human health and development, archaic, and next to insanity. This paper is going to analyze events as they unfolded in the story and interpret the meaning behind “the lottery”. Shirley Jackson warns people from merely following rituals just because they belong to a certain community which is the origin of that particular belief. Certain rituals are dehumanizing, outdated, and intolerable today because they promote human death without a justifiable basis.

The Lottery takes the stance of chances. Chances mean that one can be lucky or unlucky. In a lottery, one can be lucky as the winner or unlucky to lose. However, in this setting, the chance was used to determine who stays and the person that dies (Bonikowski 66). This is one vague ritual since it proposes human life as the only bait. It discourages peace, freedom, and love for one another. People have to live in fear of being stoned if they are unlucky or do not take part. On the day of the lottery, villagers gather together at ten o’clock in a town square located in the middle of the bank and the post office. The event starts after five slips are put into the box and each family member picks a slip. The member who picks a slip with a black spot is the one who will be stoned to death. This is in reality is one vague reason to stone someone. In the modern world, capital punishment is based on gross violations of the law such as murder. However, this is not the case with The Lottery. This shows the extent to which the rituals in this story are incapacitated.

Tessie Hutchinson is the main character and a victim to be stoned in this story. By playing this lottery, he might fall prey of the marauding crowd if she picks a slip with a black spot accidentally. How ironic is this? Normally, a lottery should be a chance to provide luck to a player by winning some form of reward. Maybe, if someone is unlucky, they should lose the money and time they invested in it (Hinchey, Patricia and Isabel 40). However, things are very different here. Instead of the two options mentioned above like in a normal lottery, the victim’s life is at stake. This is a ritual that comes out as uncouth and primitive. Tessie Hutchinson is a wife to Bill Hutchinson and a mother of four children. When she realized she was the victim of the lottery, Tessie got angry. Tessie has to be stoned and will leave her husband Bill Hutchinson and four children named Nancy, Bill, Junior, and Dave. Being the household head chosen in the first draw, Bill appears to accept his faith despite the pain that he had inside. When his wife protested his lottery selection, Hutchinson shuts her up. Maybe he believes in the lottery or he never wanted shame before villagers. This is the man who controls the lottery event. If victims can protest against a certain ritual, then it means it is much incapacitated. It only makes sense to someone once they fall victim.

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Proponents of this ritual are either selfish or want to be foolish. Mr. Summer and Mr. Grave support this program because they directly benefit from it. A ritual should be for the common good of the entire society (Hinchey, Patricia, and Isabel 40-42). However, this ritual is for the selected few who control and run the major businesses in Vermont. This makes it lose its meaning and importance. The village postmaster, Mr. Summer, is in a powerful position since he controls communication within the town. That is the job that makes him support the village’s tradition. He raises up suspicious facts about the truth behind the lottery ritual. In this story, the lottery seems to be more powerful than the villagers fear they can’t do away with the ritual so that to save their own people. People eagerly participate in killing their own people after realizing that it’s not yet their time. After the event people believe that the lottery can offer them protection although this event makes some family lose their loved one. The villagers enjoy this ritual although some people lose one of the family members. Tessie Hutchinson is a victim of the lottery and her death is key to the story. Villagers murder their own every year so that they can remain together over the event. The village here seems to be the hero as they murder one of them to continue being cohesive.

The opponents of the ritual believe that it is time to stop certain practices if they add no value to society. However, they are met with strong opposition (Bonikowski 68). Names in the lottery are called in alphabetical order and Adam was the first one to draw. Adam and his wife told Old Man Warner that the surrounding towns were having the idea of dropping the lottery ritual. That indicated they were ready for any possible change. Adams has always been among the first people to stone victims showing that he is deep into the tradition. In the whole town, the Old Warner is the oldest man. He was born and found the lottery tradition and he is among the people that respect it. In all his lifetime 77 years he has drawn the lottery. Old Warner is annoyed by the rumors that nearby villages will do away with the lottery and what he sees around among the next generation. He stays adamant to do anything that will keep the ritual going on. This shows that people practice some rituals blindly because they found it happening since they were born, but do not necessarily practice them for their values to the society and meaning. Ideally, there is no value in killing people. However, the Old Warner, with all the wisdom he has experienced in his life since he is the oldest, opposes change.

Hypocrisy is the mainstay of the ritual in this story. To start with, the meaning of this ritual is ironic of what it actually entails. Secondly, the proponents are the ones who run it and enjoy a luxurious life in the town while the rest of the population have to stay in fear of being killed and as such, must support the ritual to save their own lives (Robinson 35). Thirdly, supporting the ritual by not opposing it and sycophancy to the social ruling class does not guarantee one immunity as they can still fall victims. Overall, the villagers lost meaning with the ritual. This lottery ritual seems to be something that nobody knows when it started or will end. Lack of history makes the lottery more powerful and nobody in the village can try to go against it. People really would want to have freedom but they fear the unknown. There are different opinions and loyalties about this lottery ritual that mounts up to hypocrisy. This ritual seems to be confusing up to the extent that the villagers can’t rationally think of what they really do. In this story, it is only people from outside who can criticize the insanity of the ritual. The acts of villagers are so shocking that just because they drew, they are right to murder one of their people.

Conclusively, Jackson ends the story with the irony that is happening around the world and she painfully describes a village of industrious people in America. In the story, villagers are not aware of what they get in return from the lottery ritual. People are afraid to leave a culture they found and they believe that there are some powerful forces that will protect them. Family members fear whenever it approaches that time of picking a slip from the box because of the fear of losing one of them. Rituals have lost their sanity and meaning yet people keep up with them since they found it and have to carry it from one generation to the next. Although they are willing, nobody is ready to challenge their importance.

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The Lottery By Shirley Jackson: Ritualistic And Brutally Violent Traditions. (2021, August 17). Edubirdie. Retrieved September 22, 2023, from
“The Lottery By Shirley Jackson: Ritualistic And Brutally Violent Traditions.” Edubirdie, 17 Aug. 2021,
The Lottery By Shirley Jackson: Ritualistic And Brutally Violent Traditions. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 22 Sept. 2023].
The Lottery By Shirley Jackson: Ritualistic And Brutally Violent Traditions [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2021 Aug 17 [cited 2023 Sept 22]. Available from:
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