The Lottery

The Lottery
Analyzing history and the current state of society and its members has always been a popular topic for authors and artists. Shirley Jackson?s "The Lottery" is a comparison that can be applied to various phases of our current culture?s development. Jackson uses her characters to compare old traditions and the new ideas. She accomplishes this with the development of characters such as Old Man Warner, Tessie Hutchinson, and the town children. Jackson uses these characters to reflect ideas that are often conflicted over the past, present and future. These conflicts can be seen in her use of the old man, modern mother, and the children. Morality, progress and change are all questioned, and still nothing is resolved. Ironically, the society?s conscience is ignored in order to preserve tradition.
Jackson uses Old Man Warner to represent the past and its traditions. Old Man Warner is the oldest man in town. According to town tradition, one that has been in place since before his birth, the town must make a sacrifice in order to have a plentiful crop harvest. It is at this point that Jackson appears to be mocking the superstition that can often be found in communities made up of uneducated people. To demonstrate this point, Warner reminds the young men around him, "?Lottery in June, corn be heavy soon". (Jackson 4) Old Man Warner, given his age in comparison to the other characters and the date of the original publication of Warner?s work was most likely born in the late 1800?s. This was a period of religious fervor in which many of the puritanical ideas were being revived. The puritan thought was that life should be spent only in the service of God and all worldly things must be set aside. We see these ideas pushing through with his character. When the idea of giving up the lottery is brought up in a conversation, Warner quickly rebukes his younger counterparts stating, "Pack of crazy fools?there?s always been a lottery, bad enough to see Joe Summers up there joking with everybody". (Jackson 4) Pleasure was seen as sinful, sacrifice was the only way to eternal life, and questioning these things would surely bring on the wrath of God. Warner is the product of his environment.

Jackson developed the character of Mrs. Tessie Hutchinson to demonstrate the callous and often unthinking ways of the younger generation. Growing up in this community, or even one in the nearby area, she most likely has been a part of lotteries since she was born. This is a completely normal event that most probably has little meaning to her before this day. The day seems to be so commonplace to Mrs. Hutchinson that she states to her friend, "Clean forgot what day it was, thought my old man was out back stacking wood." (Jackson 2) The lottery does not begin to have an actual impact on her until it is her family that must draw lots. Suddenly, the events have new meaning. It is no longer a simple tradition to ensure fruitful crops; it is an unjust occurrence that needs to be changed. At some point along the way, Tessie Hutchinson becomes so desperate that she is willing to throw her own children into the mix in an effort to save herself. Is Jackson trying to show that the new generation, the one now in control, has no concern for their own? This is a very harsh statement. This is our wwii generation. Although they are now idolized by many, was there some character flaw that Jackson felt must be criticized? This is most probably a rhetorical question. History tells us that these were the people that turned their backs and allowed the Nazi?s to overtake much of Western Europe because of their isolationist ideas.

The final character represented in the story is the collective child. The children of Jackson?s story are the future of America. There is a morality issue hanging out there for the reader. If this is what the future generations are being taught within their own homes and communities, what atrocities will they be responsible for? These are the baby boomers. The children of Jackson?s story where taught to kill in the name of God and superstition. Jackson reinforces this message in her writing, "The children had stones already. And someone gave little Davie Hutchinson (a) few pebbles." They were taught indifference to human suffering as they picked up their rocks and stoned their own parents. We have to ask ourselves, are the sufferings that are felt by humans those of a vengeful God, or are they the result of behaviors that have been brought upon us through our own ignorance, callous, and upbringing?

Jackson has used irony and point of view to show the darker side of the human nature. She is illustrating that despite our good sense and moral questioning of many things, we turn our backs in the name of preserving tradition and the past. Many atrocities have been committed in the name of God in our country?s short history. The Salem Witch Trials, the kkk and slavery are perfect examples of this. For some reason that she did not offer an answer to, humans glorify the past, even romanticize it. If we actually stopped long enough to investigate our instinctual questioning and analytical nature we might have avoided many of history?s greatest tragedies. Jackson was showing that we do not learn from the past and it is only repeated through our own actions?those that we are in complete control of.

The Lottery 9.4 of 10 on the basis of 3509 Review.