Since time immemorial, traditions have played a key role in people’s culture. Traditions is what brings members of a community together enabling them to enjoy each other’s company and presence. Usually. Tradition are done because that is what has always been done and seems as the right thing to do. It is passed from one generation to another thereby keeping it alive. In our daily lives, most of us follow traditions, some we don’t even register consciously that we following them. Most of us obey the traditions without a thought; from the way we dress, to the state laws, and anyone who disobeys these traditions tend to be reprimanded harshly. However, has it occurred to you that disobeying a law or tradition could probably be the better choice in the long run?
Traditions are always the concrete that holds people’s culture and their civilization. This is what keeps people’s beliefs, their philosophies and all the activities the society is living by. However, it is important to note that not all of the traditions are practiced with the best intentions. It would be therefore wrong if a society continue in practicing a tradition without questioning its ethics and its morals. The short story by Shirley Jackson poses the question to its readers ‘At what point do we stop and ask is this tradition even ethical?’Winning a lottery is more often than nor linked to a good thing. But in “The Lottery” by Shirley Jacksons’ winning a lottery is a dreaded event since it automatically calls for death. “The Lottery” here is a tradition done in the selection of a scapegoat. nobody wants to question the tradition as it has been inculcated in them that the tradition when done annually it guarantees good harvest.
The story is set in a small fictional town in New England and begins on the summer of 27th June. It opens with the towns people gathered in the town square carrying out a lottery. Shirley explains how this has been a usual practice in the local towns, whereby, people gathered annually to conduct a lottery. The events appear to be really festive at first but then it becomes clear nobody want to win the lottery at all. One particular woman; Tessie Hutchinson, seems to be so unbothered with the tradition and does not show interest to it at all until a member of her family; her husband, selects the dreaded mark. She then protests that it was not fair, and a rerun is done among again, but now within the family itself. Tessie Hutchinson, is the one who picks the mark and is instantly stoned to death by the rest of the residents including members of his family and people she considered friends.When one starts to read this story, one thinks its as simple and straight forward as the title suggests, however, the author unleashes a series of horrifying and dark cautionary events on the repercussions of blindly following traditions and how this particular problem is aggravated by the societal pressures, making the reader to realize the change in the tone. The author makes great use of symbolism in her work in the form of numbers, the names of the character and objects.
The author strived to make the names of characters to try and mean something in this story. A name such as Delacroix, is so religious in nature. The others such as Adam may be a bit more indistinct in nature. The Delacroix family means ‘the cross’, the principal of Mrs. Delacroix character constantly appears throughout the story and she is given the role of being Tessie Hutchinson’s friend. She eventually turns on her as well despite not being angry at her but because it’s the tradition. Here the symbolism is relevant in our lives today in that, the church is usually portrayed as a positive influence in the society. However, the same people who practice the religion so diligently are the ones who can easily turn on a person on the basis of church ritual and tradition even if it is rationally considered non-ethical.
The old man Warner is one portrayed as a major symbol in the story; he is the one representing the tradition being the oldest person in the town. Warner has participated in seventy-seven annual lottery events. When the younger generations reach out to him and tell him other towns have stopped the practice of that tradition, and they should consider ending it too, he does not take them seriously. He considers them just a pack of crazy fools who don’t know the value of that tradition. Being a superstitious man, Warner believes that the lottery it the only thing that is keeping that society stable and the only logical answer they have to insure their crops’. Warner grew up with this type of tradition, he therefore believes that that is how things are and are supposed to be. He does not see anything wrong in the tradition and wants it to be the way it was because he considers changing the tradition whatsoever would be disastrous in nature. This shows that the old members in the community could be the real menace in a society that would want to move on past the unethical traditions.The black box in “The Lottery” is a symbol of total lack of tradition. The box had not been passed down to generations, therefore, it is only a representation of ideas and the rituals that have been passed by the generations. This has led to the lose of some small details and all the people are left with are the intentions. it is therefore correct to say that the people are following blindly to a tradition that has lost its meaning over the years. This makes the people hold the lottery event only because it is something that has always been done in their community.
The villagers want to believe they are preserving tradition so that they don’t loose their sense of identity and belonging. The want to preserve their culture in the most delicate way. However, they question the originality of this tradition since no one has concrete information about how this particular tradition started and what it really stands for. The only thing they see constant in this tradition is the fact that it stands for violence. The people don’t strongly show their disbelief in the meaning of thee tradition since they think they will cause a serious social disorder. This makes it easier for them to blindly follow the tradition and loose only one person than to start up social order which would make them loose so many lives in return.Stoning is a barbaric and ancient way of conducting slow and cruel death to a person. The people in this story use this method in conducting their killing ritual. the people willingly picked up the stones and started throwing them at Tessie. This woman had done no wrong to anyone. No one forced the people to pick up the stones, but because it was a tradition and one person had already taken up the courage to pick a stone and throw it at her, it encouraged the rest to follow suite. This proves humanity can be so cruel to an individual at times just because of the said traditions set in the society. This action left children orphans, the husband a widow. The kind of trauma the family had to endure henceforth knowing that they were part of their mother’s death, is unmatched.Blindly following traditions brings about cruelty that probably never existed in the society before. In “The Lottery” the story narrates how the people interact so nicely, so peacefully; Tessie and Mrs. Delacroix, however at the end of the story we see how all this gets to change at the town center. If it were not for this particular tradition the people in this society peacefully coexists with one another and they won’t have to practice such kind of violence. However, because it is the towns tradition to conduct the lottery event, the people must just unleash their cruel side to one another proving the doubleness of the human spirit.
The good harvest that the community is hoping for every season that initiates tradition of offering human sacrifice, in the long run mostly the harvest does not come as expected. When the people sit down and wonder why then would they give such a sacrifice and still not be able to get the kind of harvest they hoped for. They don’t come up with a valid answer to there questions. The next year they continue with the same tradition still of taking away a human life prematurely just because a lottery dictates so. This proves that human beings are superstitious people who want to believe in the presence of a high power that accepts sacrifice, to give back good happenings in peoples life’s regardless of the person this tradition will hurt as long you get to benefit its fine by you.
On the other hand, hypocrisy among the people can also arise due to traditional blind following that is also another way of saying foolishness. Shirley Jackson’s story THE LOTTERY is an outstanding example of hypocrisy. “There is Don and Eva.” Mrs. Hutchinson yelled. “Make them take their chance!” “Daughters draw with their husband’s family.” Mr. Summers said gently. “You know that as well as anyone else.” In this conversation, Tessie Hutchinson is clearly willing to sacrifice members of her own family. This also proofs that Tessie became blind due to tradition. She does not even care about her family. Hypocrisy is one of the main reasons to destroy a person, a family, a society.Following blindly the traditions that is passed on to the next generation can easily breed selfishness among members of a community. Old man Warner is seen to strongly advocate and believe in the practice of “The Lottery” event. He doesn’t want to hear anyone with the opinion that the practice is barbaric and obsolete. This is an attempt to force its own selfish beliefs onto the members of the society since he sees the practice as luck bringer to the society. This makes him to be a very selfish man since he is only concern with what he will get in this practice and not considerate at all of the suffering the suffering or torture that the other people will go through.
Following traditions results to people losing their sense of individuality. The story carefully illustrates how far an individual is willing to go in loosing his sense of individuality as a result of following a particular custom. The society in this story have been portrayed to lack their sense of individuality. They have become like a sheep in a heard and have totally lost their conscience. They move in a certain way as decided by a particular person, they are afraid to think on their own and make their own kind of decisions on what is either right or wrong in their own perspective.Mr. Summers heading the civic activities in the community is depicted as a really insensitive man. he does not show any remorse to Tessie since he believes those are the customs and have to be followed accordingly. He is in a person to stop the whole of the event and cancel it out but he chose not to since he is a believer of traditions. He continues organizing the event annually and even sees to it with his assistant. Graves, that the tickets needed in the participation are drawn. Mr. Summers is not moved at all after a ‘winner’ has been selected. This shows how human beings can turn out to be insensitive people just because they are following a particular custom.
Violence is one major danger of blindly following tradition. In this story, the violence is in the form stoning an individual. This cruel act causes violence in the society that was however quite peaceful before this entire event. Violence is never a thing to be fancied in a society. If a tradition is breeding violence, would it be in the best interest of the members of the society who believe in this particular custom to question their values? It therefore, beats logic why members of a society would want to strive so much in holding onto a certain tradition that is doing more harm than good to its members. The main theme of this story is that it could be quite dangerous to blindly follow a certain tradition. This is clearly depicted in the bizarre ritual of the people participating in murdering totally innocent people. A serious form of violence but the society doesn’t seem to see this.The villagers blindly accepting the practice of “The Lottery” show that they have chose to allow ritual murder to be part and parcel of their town fabric. They clearly show that they totally feel powerless to change or to even try to change the tradition.The evils in a society is exposed in this story, and it leaves the reader in utter suspense to question the existence of any form of traditions that is existent in their own life’s. The blind obedience to a custom has been clearly shown to bring about effects to members of a society. The effects would be massive in the long run, if the members of the society do not learn to stand firm to oppose certain ideologies that they question. Individuals need to learn to decide for themselves what they consider good for themselves and what they consider totally wrong.
A society’s future totally depends on the allowance of new evolutions in its present standpoint and how they would want to alter it. In this story Shirley Jackson uses different literary forms to depicts the kind of rot in a society due to traditions and customs that hinder members of the society in having a revolution. Being stuck with particular set of customs that other neighboring communities have let go of is a sign that maybe there is no progress in that society. The people should therefore, not feel intimidated in taking a stand in the fight for what they believe in no matter the judgement they may face. It is also important to say that human beings should ask themselves vital questions concerning certain customs. This will be truly helpful since they will not be used as pawns in people’s greed and selfishness.
Not all traditions are effective, therefore, not all traditions passed down to generations should be automatically practiced. Some just needs to be acknowledged that they existed without conforming to them.