Winter Will Be Here Soon -- Study hard as finals approach...


 
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The Lottery

 

by 
 Shirley Jackson
 
The idea of winning a lottery is associated with luck,
happiness and anticipation of good things. In Shirley
Jackson's story, " The Lottery", this is not the case. The
irony of the story is that the winner of the lottery gets
stoned to death by everyone else in the town. The story is
very effective because it examines certain aspects of human
nature. 
 
One aspect of human nature that is examined, and that adds
to the effectiveness of the story, is man's tendency to
resist change. This is shown in more than one way. The
first way is the way some villagers tolerate the lottery
even though they know it is wrong, and it serves no
purpose. They talk about how other towns have already
stopped having lotteries, but they allow it to continue
year after year. Old man Warner even says "there's nothing
but trouble" in quitting lotteries. Townsfolk listen to him
because he has been in the lottery seventy-seven years. The
townsfolk feel helpless to change things because they have
been going on for so long. The fact that the box is old and
needs to be replaced but no one takes on the job of making
a new one because that would be an alteration of the way
things had been done for many years, also shows man's
resistance to change. 
 
Another aspect of human nature that we see in the story,
and that adds to the effectiveness of the story, is the
ability of man to hide his fear by joking about danger.
When Mrs. Hutchinson arrives late, her husband jokes about
"getting along without her," and she jokes back about
leaving dishes in the sink. The whole town laughs. They
must joke because someone they know will die very soon, and
they have to cover their fear. This adds to the
effectiveness of the story because we have all seen people
act this way. 
 
The next aspect of human nature that the author looks at,
and that adds to the effectiveness of the story, is denial.
As soon as her husband has drawn the black dot, Mrs.
Hutchinson begins to complain that her husband wasn't given
enough time to choose. She was content to allow someone
else to die, but when it was going to be someone in her
family she began to complain about procedure. This is
something almost everyone would do. Denial is typical of
humans, and the author uses it to make the story more
effective. 
 
The "crowd mentality" is another facet of human nature that
we see in the story, and that adds to the potency of the
story. In a crowd the stoning can be justified by each
person present because they can tell themselves that they
didn't kill Mrs. Hutchinson. They only threw one or two
rocks. Everyone else killed her. This kind of phenomenon
accounts for deaths in British soccer matches every year.
People fall and are trampled to death by other human
beings. Since we are familiar with this side of human
nature, its appearance adds to the effectiveness of the
story.
 
The story is made more effective because the victim in the
story is one of the more developed characters. Mrs.
Hutchinson and her husband are two of the people we meet
early in the story. We identify with them because most of
the other 300 townsfolk are faceless to us. The story is
too short to develop too many characters, so we identify
with those characters that are more developed. She becomes
like a friend to us, and then she dies. We empathize with
her and her husband, and this adds to the effectiveness of
the story. 
 
Shirley Jackson's story, " The Lottery", is effective
because it examines certain aspects of human nature, and
because the victim is one of the more developed characters
and one with whom we can empathize. We feel shock and
disgust at her death, but we are forced to look at
ourselves and our society. We are forced to look for
answers.
 
 



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