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Theme of the Loss of Innocence and Humanity in The Lottery and a Perfect Day for Bananafish

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Firstly, the loss of innocence gives the authors’ personal perspectives on tradition. In “The Lottery”, Jackson uses the loss of innocence to criticize society’s blind following of old traditions. In the story, the village carries out their annual lottery tradition, where the unlucky winner is to be stoned. There is very little opposition to this tradition and one villager, Mr. Warner justifies it by saying “Lottery in June, corn be heavy soon…There’s always been a lottery”. Tessie Hutchinson is randomly selected by the lottery and the entire village prepares to stone her. Her son, Davy is handed pebbles to throw at his own mother. “The children had stones already. And someone gave little Davy Hutchinson few pebbles”. Just a few minutes earlier, he, along with the other children, were carelessly playing, and suddenly, he is given stones to throw at his mother. Although the story ends shortly after this takes place, presumably, this would have caused him to lose his innocence by realizing that he had contributed to the death of his own mother. Thus, this shows the loss of innocence caused by blindly following tradition.

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Conversely, in “A Perfect Day for Bananafish”, Salinger uses the loss of innocence to criticize society’s tradition of war. In this story, Seymour has just returned from the war – presumably World War II – and likely has PTSD. After returning, others around him noticed that he is different than before. His wife’s mother says to his wife: “Well. In the first place, he said it was a perfect crime the Army released him for the hospital – my word of honor. He very definitely told your father there’s a chance – a very great change, he said that Seymour may completely lose control of himself. My word of honor”. Thus, the war has caused him to lose his innocence and see how cruel the world can be, thus criticizing the damages of war. Next, The loss of familial connections gives the authors’ personal perspectives on tradition.

In “A Perfect Day of for Bananafish”, Seymour returns home from the war to find his wife embroiled in the consumerism that has completely enveloped North American society. This culture of consumerism began after the conclusion of World War II, when there was an economic boom which sparked an interest in buying new products. Since this took place right after the war in 1948, many people like his wife feel they have to conform to society’s new ways. Her consumerist choices can be seen by her reading choices. Seymour brought his wife a poetry book back from Germany, but she refuses to read it since it is in German. Instead, she reads a woman’s magazine. While his wife is on the phone with her mother, she mentions how Seymour mockingly referred to her as “Miss Spiritual Tramp of 1948”, suggesting that she is materialistic, which shows that this was something that Seymore has noticed. In addition to this, his wife was busy doing little superficial things such as fixing her blouse, washing her comb and putting lacquer on her nails. These differences in worldviews and lifestyles lead to a strong disconnect between Seymour and his wife and according to Bogac, she cannot give the love that Seymour seeks.

Meanwhile, in “The Lottery”, Mrs. Hutchinson is a happy member of her community and family who is completely unconcerned about the lottery. However, once her name is drawn from the infamous black lottery box, the whole community and family blindly follows the tradition of stoning and turns on her. Even her own husband turns on her by making sure everyone can see the black dot on her slip. “Bill Hutchinson went over to his wife and forced the slip of paper out of her hand. It had a black spot on it, the black spot Mr. Summers had made the night before with the heavy pencil in the coal company office”. Shortly after, the villagers began the stoning, showing how quickly a community can turn on a person for the sake of tradition.

Finally, the loss of humanity is used to give the authors’ personal perspectives on tradition. In “The Lottery”, Tessie’s death is caused by the tradition of stoning the person with the black dot on their slip. This ritual is a long tradition for this particular town as well as other towns. Some of these other towns have decided to discontinue this tradition, however, in the village featured in the story, the villagers are quite resistant to change, especially Mr. Warner. When another villager mentions that other villages have ended their lottery tradition, Mr. Warner replies: “Nothing but trouble in that…Pack of young fools”. The insistence of villagers like Mr. Warner to continue this barbaric tradition, as well as the blind support of the people, led to the death of Mrs. Hutchinson. According to Suwardi, the villagers treat her as a scapegoat of a rebellion against the rules.

The loss of humanity is clearly seen in the community blindly following an outdated and inhumane tradition. In “A Perfect Day for Bananafish”, Seymour succumbs to his depression and disconnect from the world and commits suicide. His death appears quite sudden to the reader, which shows how serious his depression is. “He glanced at the girl lying asleep on one of the twin beds. Then he went over to one of the pieces of luggage, opened it, and from under a pile of shorts and undershirts he took out an Ortgies calibre 7.65 automatic. He released the magazine, looked at it, the reinserted it. He cocked the piece. Then he went over and sat down on the unoccupied twin bed, looked at the girl, aimed the pistol, and fired a bullet through his right temple”. Thus, the loss of society’s former traditions caused the loss of his life.

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