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Tradition In William Faulkner’s A Rose For Emily And Shirley Jackson’s The Lottery

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Throughout the world People do things for various reasons. Belief, survival, religion, peer pressure, culture or tradition, are some of the reasons the people carry out things. People have various traditions such as Christmas, Easter Day and so forth. Some people have strange or out of the ordinary traditions. The two short stories The Lottery by Shirley Jackson and A Rose For Emily by William Faulkner? Both depict the theme of tradition. By exploring violence, brutality, and death within these traditions, similarities and differences emerge between the two tales.

Both of the short stories are told from a 3rd person perspective—an outsider or townsperson looking into the lives of the protagonists. Rather than allowing the reader to experience the character’s thoughts and feelings, the authors let the stories unfold solely based on their plot development. This allows the reader to be a “fly on the wall,” and join the community in their gossip. Despite what an outsider may see externally, often times if one looks more closely, they will discover the truth. In A Rose for Emily, the townspeople thought that Miss Emily was hiding from society, but after looking more closely, they discover she was hiding the secret death of Homer Barron, her boyfriend. Otherwise, Shirley Jackson spends a lot of time describing the setting of the town in The Lottery, ultimately creating a mood of normality and optimism under the overarching positive understanding of the story’s title. However, once looking more closely, the mood contrasts with the horror of the story’s ending when the town stones Tessie Hutchinson to death. Which makes the two short stories is ironic, comic, unbelievable and mysterious. In The Lottery, the narrator tells the reader that there has always been a lottery when stating, “the black box now resting on the stool had been put into use even before Old Man Warner, the oldest man in town, was born” (Jackson). This statement reveals that the lottery is a tradition in town that they characters were born into believing in blindly.

None of the characters have lived a life where the lottery did not exist, thus this occasion is anormality to them. Summers had spoke frequently to the town about making a new box, “But no one liked to upset as much tradition as was represented by the black box. […] Every year, after the lottery, Mr. Summers began talking again about the new box, but every year the subject was allowed to fade off without anything being done” (Jackson). This paragraph in the text reiterates the town’s inability to stray away from the ritual of their ancestors.

Each story concludes with surprising the reader and death is saved for the very end. In A Rose for Emily, the disrupted chronological events allow the author to surprise the reader or audience. The reader or audience is aware in the opening sentence of the story that Emily passes away, “When Miss Emily died, our whole town went to her funeral” (Faulkner). Death is revealed multiple times throughout the course of the plot, However, the grandest reveal was saved for the very end when the reader and the town discover the murder of Homer Barron. “What was left of him, rotted beneath what was left of the nightshirt, had become inextricable from the bed in which he lay; and upon him and upon the pillow beside him lay that even coating of the patient and biding dust” (Faulkner). In The Lottery, the plot development does not use flashbacks like Faulkner, however Jackson utilizes foreshadowing to hint at the astonishing ending. In the very beginning of the story the text states, “Bobby Martin had already stuffed his pockets full of stones, and the other boys soon followed his example, selecting the smoothest and roundest stones” (Jackson). Initially the reader or audience may believe that the collection of stones was simply just the kids having fun, however, after the reader is aware of the ending, someone may connect the two events.

A Rose for Emily roughly takes place in the late 1800’s and although The Lottery takes place in an unnamed time period, both stories reflect similar views on society. Both stories depict the struggles that an individual or group encounters in order to avoid the loss of cultural or family traditions. Miss Emily lived a lonely life due to her inability to adapt to the changing world around her. In the beginning of the story, the narrator sets up the framework of isolation by writing, “our whole town went to her funeral: the men through a sort of respectful affection for a fallen monument, the women mostly out of curiosity to see the inside of her house, which no one save an old man-servant – a combine gardener and cook – had seen in at least ten years” (Faukner). This opening immediately clues the reader in on the partitions that exist between Miss Emily and the townspeople. Her refusal to enter the outside world reflects Emily forcing the past upon her and shutting the present out of her life. When the next generation of aldermen sent Emily her tax notice, she returned a “note on paper of an archaic shape, in a thin, flowing calligraphy in faded ink, to the effect that she no longer went out at all” (Faukner). Her handwriting and her stationery exhibit how Miss Emily is living in the past. After her father’s death, Emily insisted that her father was not dead for three days before a threat from law enforcement forced her to surrender her father’s corpse. She desperately held onto the past and struggled to enter the daunting unknown of the present. Also, she could not recognize between the past and the present.

Shirley Jackson spends a lot of time describing the setting of the town in The Lottery, ultimately creating a mood of normality and optimism under the overarching positive understanding of the story’s title. However, once looking more closely, the mood contrasts with the horror of the story’s ending when the town stones Tessie Hutchinson to death. In A Rose for Emily, the townspeople thought that Miss Emily was hiding from society, but after looking more closely, they discover she was hiding the secret death of Homer Barron. In The Lottery, the tradition is display in three major ways. First, The Lottery is held every year. Tradition is upheld in this way because it introduces the younger generation to the tradition. This shows that the lottery is a tradition because traditions happen over and over again. Old Man Warner says, “there has always been a lottery.” (Jackson). The town people accept “The Lottery” because there has always been a lottery. The older people in the town such as Old Man Warner keeps the tradition alive with their ideals. Lastly, tradition is shown with the parifanilia used in the story of The Lottery?. The black box is a symbol of what was in the years past. The black box used to draw names is a duplicate of the original. The black colour is a symbol of death or misfortune. Which is presented in The Lottery, the end of the story.

However, tradition in A Rose For Emily is also shown in three major ways. First, Emily does not get courted by anyone. This would not seem to be a standard tradition but in the short story Emily’s father was not following their tradition when doing this because the standard tradition would be to allow Emily to become involved with anybody. Second, tradition is shown with Emily cutting her hair. Emily cut her hair after her father passed away (Faulkner). This shows some tradition because women in that time and place of society do not cut their hair unless they want to show something. Emily was showing she had gotten over her father’s death and ready to move on with her life. Finally, A Rose for Emily shows tradition in the way the townspeople treated Miss. Emily. Tradition is shown when the older generation of people put lime down instead of confronting Emily with the smell. The elders of the town also accepted Emily to go without paying taxes after she told them she did not have to pay them. Second, both stories have women as the main characters as the ones showing tradition. Miss. Emily was the woman in A Rose for Emily that showed tradition. Tessie was the woman in The Lottery that showed tradition in the story. Thus, The Lottery and A Rose for Emily both show tradition in the same ways. First, in both stories the elders had the strongest tradition. In the story A Rose for Emily the older generation are the ones that respected Emily and let her get away with many things such as the taxes. In The Lottery old man Warner was the person keeping “The Lottery” alive with his ideals and his role in The Lottery throughout so many years. Finally, in both stories the tradition changed a little. In A Rose for Emily the younger generation was changing the tradition in the way they treat the elder, august named people. In The Lottery the rituals and sayings that have been taken out of the agenda of The Lottery changed the tradition.

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In the short story, A Rose For Emily, for old tradition Agriculture is being supplanted by aristocratic neighborhoods, and industry with their proud plantation-style houses like the Grierson’s are being encroached upon by less grandiose but more economically practical garages and cotton gins. Even as white Southerners cling to their ideals, pre-Civil War traditions, and institutions, the world around them is quickly changing. Furthermore, the post-Sartoris generation of authorities in Jefferson, those men who belong to the Board of Aldermen that governs the town are increasingly moving away from their forbears’ aristocratic and chivalric ideals toward “more modern ideas” and practical, progressive governance,hence their decision to try to exact taxes from Emily after all. While many years earlier, the gallant old Judge Stevens balks at the idea of telling a lady to her face that her property stinks, the authorities from this newer generation, we might imagine, would have fewer qualms about doing so. In contrast to,

The Lottery, The people in the story do the lottery and the death by stoning to death; because that’s what they have always done. They just apply it even though nobody remembers exactly why. They don’t ask the morality of it or even the purpose of it. Old Man Warner gives the story’s only clue as to the original purpose of the lottery.

‘Used to be a saying about ‘Lottery in June, corn be heavy soon.”

“Seventy-seventh year I been in the lottery,’

‘Seventy-seventh year I been in the lottery,’

Old Man Warner said as he went through the crowd. ‘Seventy-seventh time.’ It seems like the original purpose of the lottery was a sacrifice to secure rain for the crops. Readers are told by Mr. Adams that several other towns are giving up the lottery, which means that the lottery doesn’t make sense or doesn’t apply to those other areas. It seems that Mr. Adams supports that idea, but Old Man Warner replies, ‘Pack of crazy fools.’ That indicates that Old Man Warner supports the lottery tradition no matter what. Moreover, Old Man Warner has been to 77 lotteries since his first one at age 16. He must have been so lucky to not have won the lottery over all those years. He is set in his ways and sees no reason to change the Lottery. He believes only bad will come from making any changes in the Lottery, stating the young people not keeping to tradition were fools. Also he believes for a good harvest, if the town continues with the Lottery When the winner of the lottery is determined. Old Man Warner is exhorting everyone, “Come on, come on, everyone’ (Jackson) to get them started in throwing stones at Mrs. Hutchinson. His actions appear to be to be rote; he has done this all his life and it’s time to do it again. He finds nothing wrong with it.

To sum up, both stories struggle with progressing with the advancements in society—Emily reflects this by locking herself and Homer’s corpse in her home all of those years, and the town in The Lottery reflects this by refusing to stray away from the stoning and cruel tradition despite other nearby towns eliminating the ritual. Even though, it obviously they are wrong cruel crazy and blind. But they are loyal to their belief, ritual and tradition. Anyone in the town could be a victim in order to sacrifice the one who is seemed to be as a scapegoat for their living specifically their harvest. Miss Emily as mentally ill lived a lonely life due to her inability to adapt to the changing world around her. Emily is strict or dreamy about the idea that she belongs to her aristocratic class while she is alone; because that is her family’s tradition or she just gets a heritage from her father. Emily obviously loves her heritage, so she pursues for which is called the American dream, precisely getting married and keeping her high position of the class in the American society and her heritage. I have seen the short stories, The Lottery and A Rose for Emily, In which I understood it is a brutal life the way they live in order to survive and obey the rule of their own tradition and ancestor’s tradition as they have faith of this tradition. In contrast, the town in The Lottery is a community that is unwilling to accept change as a whole. This reluctant choice to change ultimately causes death and violence in both tales. This brutality and morbidity thus enhances the overall themes in the text and hold a lasting impression in the reader’s mind. The short stories The Lottery and A Rose for Emily both have their own ways of showing tradition. The Lottery had three main ways of showing tradition, A Rose for Emily had three main ways of showing tradition also, and both stories have some of the same concepts of traditions.

Works Cited

  1. Faulkner, William. ‘A Rose for Emily’ An Introduction to Literature. Ed. Joseph Terry. NewYork: Longman, (2001): 362-368.
  2. Jackson, Shirley. ‘The Lottery.’ Bridges: Literature Across Cultures. Gilbert H. Muller, John A. Williams. McGraw-Hill, Inc., (1994): 849-854.
  3. Abdul Muttaleb, Fuad. A Short Way to Short Story. India: Ahad Publication, 2016. Print. Litcharts. “Tradition vs Progress”. Web. .10 Jan 2020.
  4. Enotes. “What kinds of traditions, practices, and laws might “The Lottery” represent?”. Web.10 Jan 2020.
  5. Middleburry Libraries. “Citation & Style Guide: MLA 7th Edition”. Web. 10 Jan 2020. Litcharts. “Tradition vs Progress”. Web. .10 Jan 2020.
  6. Enotes. “What kinds of traditions, practices, and laws might “The Lottery” represent?”. Web.10 Jan 2020.

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Tradition In William Faulkner’s A Rose For Emily And Shirley Jackson’s The Lottery. (2022, Jun 09). Edubirdie. Retrieved September 26, 2022, from https://edubirdie.com/examples/tradition-in-william-faulkners-a-rose-for-emily-and-shirley-jacksons-the-lottery/
“Tradition In William Faulkner’s A Rose For Emily And Shirley Jackson’s The Lottery.” Edubirdie, 09 Jun. 2022, edubirdie.com/examples/tradition-in-william-faulkners-a-rose-for-emily-and-shirley-jacksons-the-lottery/
Tradition In William Faulkner’s A Rose For Emily And Shirley Jackson’s The Lottery. [online]. Available at: <https://edubirdie.com/examples/tradition-in-william-faulkners-a-rose-for-emily-and-shirley-jacksons-the-lottery/> [Accessed 26 Sept. 2022].
Tradition In William Faulkner’s A Rose For Emily And Shirley Jackson’s The Lottery [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2022 Jun 09 [cited 2022 Sept 26]. Available from: https://edubirdie.com/examples/tradition-in-william-faulkners-a-rose-for-emily-and-shirley-jacksons-the-lottery/
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