The Lottery: Analysis of the Story

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In the story “The Lottery”, Shirley Jackson dominates the readers’ minds and stuns them with a twisted ending. Jackson uses symbolism throughout the story that helps set the theme and nature of humankind in the village when it comes to tradition and violence. Using symbolism as a figurative language in this story can leave the reader wanting more answers due to lack of story. The lack of simple answers during “The Lottery” forces the reader to interpret their analysis of the story. “According to her husband, the literary critic Stanley Edgar Hyman, “she consistently refused to be interviewed, to explain or promote her work in any fashion, or to take public stands and be the pundit of the Sunday supplements. She believed that her books would speak for her clearly enough over the years” (Gutenberg).

Symbolism has a significant impact on this story. Stoning is one of the oldest and most common forms of execution, but it is also one of the most symbolic. Stones are a symbol of the violence that the villagers are prepared to commit with no hesitation. This symbol makes clear what the enemy is in the story. For stoning to be effective, it requires a crowd to act together. At the beginning of the story, the children are seen piling rocks. “Bobby Martin had already stuffed his pockets full of stones, and the other boys soon followed his example, selecting the smoothest and roundest stones; Bobby and Harry Jones and Dickie Delacroix—the villagers pronounced this name “Dellacroy”—eventually made a great pile of stones in one corner of the square and guarded it against the raids of the other boys.” (Kirszner, L. G. & Mandell, S. R. 336). These activities seem as if it’s an innocent childhood play of a game similar, to a game of capture the flag, which is often a game of guarding and stealing. One can only assume that the boys are piling rocks in an innocent way filled with laughter. Even though Jackson doesn’t describe the boys as laughing and happy, the reader can only assume that they are enjoying their game. This statement is an excellent example of the village being filled with oblivion to such ridiculous traditions set years ago. The boys started getting stones ready as soon as they arrived despite the lack of understanding of the tradition. They learned from previous years watching adults pick up stones and have followed in their footsteps without question as if it were some game.

The villagers make it a point to make sure even the children are responsible for the outcome of the lottery. Human nature and nurture are taught at the same time. While villagers use stones as defense, Davy Hutchinson is instructed to take action in violence at such a young age. When Tessie Hutchinson is the one chosen, “The children had stones already. And someone gave little Davy Hutchinson a few pebbles” (Kirszner, L. G. & Mandell, S. R.342). Davy is too young to comprehend what is happening to his mother. Despite is young age the villagers do not hesitate to reassure that Davy has part of the responsibility in the outcome of his mother’s death. Children are anxious about taking part in the lottery, but without realizing that the villagers guard themselves at the same time in self-defense with the stones. The tradition of the lottery is venerated from past generations and cultivated for the upcoming generations. Stoning reinforces the point that the antagonist of this story it is not a single person but society in itself. While stoning is a horrific way to die, it’s also shown as a unanimous way of death by the villagers. Violence in this story is not restricted to some people or some ages, everyone is influenced by violence, which is shown to be an inevitable part of human nature. With the teaching of nature vs. nurture, it allows the whole village to engage in the lottery from the youngest child to the oldest man.

“Tessie Hutchinson was in the center of a cleared space by now, and she held her hands out desperately as the villagers moved in on her. “It isn’t fair,” she said. A stone hit her on the side of the head. Old Man Warner was saying, “Come on, come on, everyone.” Steve Adams was in the front of the crowd of villagers, with Mrs. Graves beside him. “It isn’t fair, it isn’t right,” Mrs. Hutchinson screamed, and then they were upon her” (Kirszner, L. G. & Mandell, S. R.342). When Tessie says it isn’t fair, Jackson is hinting that there the stoning is wrong and should not be done. Tessie’s words allow the reader to assume that the Hutchinson family has never won the lottery, as well as standing all these years at the lottery stoning others to death. Steve Adams and Mrs. Graves are eager for violence as Old Man Warner encourages villagers as they attack Tessie. It’s not until Tessie was the lottery winner, did she start to question the purpose of the lottery. Villagers are taught that they are working as a unit together to remind Tessie that she had a fair chance and is the crazy one who is fighting the stoning.

“The Lottery, written by Shirley Jackson, shows that Pagan culture and belief still stick to the life of the villagers in this literary work. The elements of Paganism are seen from the Lottery, the ritual, which is the heritage of ancient culture. Sacrificing someone is obviously the heritage of Pagan culture in which the Pagan people used to sacrifice someone for their God or Goddess” (Syam, Essy, and Raja Syamsidar). In the story, Jackson applies the Pagan culture to the town to show the individual who is stone is the one sacrificed. The Pagan culture allowed villagers to take part in the lottery with the belief that the ritual would save their loved ones and themselves. Jackson’s message is entirely unclear to the reader until there is an acknowledgment that the story is reading based on a cult operation that dates back to ancient times. Jackson leaves the reader with no ability to know what her purpose was during the story. The only one can imagine that she was directing the reader’s focus to old rituals even if they are shown to be foolish with the work of the stones.

Cite this paper

The Lottery: Analysis of the Story. (2020, Sep 20). Retrieved from https://samploon.com/the-lottery-analysis-of-the-story/



What are 3 themes in The Lottery?
Three themes in The Lottery are the dangers of blindly following tradition, the cruelty of mob mentality, and the power of fear and superstition.
What is the main message of The Lottery about the characters?
The characters in The Lottery are all struggling with their own personal demons. The main message of the story is that we all have our own crosses to bear, and that we must be careful not to judge others until we have walked in their shoes.
Who wins The Lottery in the story The Lottery?
The winner of the lottery is announced as Mrs. Hutchinson. She has won the lottery many times before.
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