When reading The Lottery the reader can easily anticipate a large amount of money with little or no chance of winning it. However, this story has nothing to do with money but with a horrific ritual that takes place every year. At the end of the tale you wonder why Shirley Jackson would create such a macabre story. But, what she really has created is a masterpiece that opens your eyes with regard to blind obedience and seeing our society for what it really is. Jackson’s use of symbolism and recognizable character traits stuns people into seeing this brutal example of society obedience.
At the beginning of the story, Jackson describes the town’s harvest as “the flowers were blossoming profusely and the grass was richly green”. This example contradicts all the other reasons why the Lottery shouldn’t be performed. Another such example is when Old Man Warner comments that there has never been a time that they didn’t have the Lottery so there is no point in ending it now. Apart from these examples, Jackson shows the opposite with traits of obedience and ignorance in the characters. None of the townsfolk stand up for what they believe which adds to the obedience and man’s tendency to resist change.
Also not rebuilding the box, which is old and beat up, by all the townsfolk so that it could be the same every year shows an illustration of how they resist change. Mr. Adams tells the townsfolk that “over in the north village they’re talking about giving up the lottery” but the people of the village only lightly discuss it and in the end do nothing about it. They decide to listen to what Old Man Warner says who, coincidently, has lived through the lottery for seventy-seven years. Old-fashioned traits, steeped in obstinance, are demonstrated in Old Man Warner.
He makes comments like “pack of crazy fools, listening to the young folks, nothing’s good enough for them. ” He explains to the townsfolk that any folk who give up the lottery are crazy. In a way, he also represents modern society and the kind of mentality displayed by it. People like Old Man Warner do not appreciate change and that archaic things are old-fashioned for a reason. If all people had this mentality we wouldn’t have the modern advances and social improvements available in our societies today.
It’s a shame when people show these characteristics and Jackson does a magnificent job of representing it with Warner. Another aspect of human trait which Jackson talks about is denial. Jackson shows denial with Mrs. Hutchinson who complains of the unfairness that her husband did not have enough time to choose, when her husband chooses the paper with the black dot. She would have been content if it hadn’t been her family but since it was she actively opposed the pick of the Lottery.
All the other townsfolk were relieved with the idea that they would live for another year and naturally didn’t care to listen to Mrs. Hutchinson’s protestations. This is accepted as justifiable for most people in modern society today and shows more effectiveness to society obedience. As she is seen as crazy and not being a good sport, as commented on by Mrs. Delacroix, many of our protesters in society are seen the same way. These people are torn down and even though we might agree with some of the facts they are protesting we choose indifference.
Some of the significant events that took place during the ritual is said throughout the story to have changed. For example the chant and the salute that took place during the ritual wasn’t being done anymore. So that indicates that people have been subconsciously wanting a change. Another indication of this is Mr. Summers, the man in charge of running the lottery. Appearances can be deceiving as he might look like he is for the lottery but implies to the reader the opposite. He shows no sympathy in changing small yet supposedly important things from the ritual.
As he changes the wooden chips in the box with paper slips, he also brings up the idea of constructing a new box but never actually goes through his plan. This shows his attitude of keeping it a ritual in the overall sense and also the townsfolk’s attitudes by not caring for such significant events. Obviously this is something as small as peer pressure but at a higher level that often people don’t see it happening or sometimes do but choose to ignore it as is true for many other important decisions in life.
This story overall is made effective by giving us the facet of Mrs. Hutchinson and her husband. As all the other townsfolk are mostly faceless to us we are made to see her point of view. We, as the reader, actually come to see her as a friend and we feel the sorrow in her death. Her death makes us examine certain aspects of our society and actually think about what we are doing. Shirley Jackson obviously wanted her voice to be heard and that must be why she chose to write a grisly and thought-provoking story about the obedience of society.