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“The Lottery” By Shirley Jackson

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“The Lottery”, is a short story written by Shirley Jackson and was published in 1948, just three years after World War II. If you didn’t know anything about Shirley Jackson, one would assume that “The Lottery” was a happy fairy tale story about winning money or even a big prize. Unfortunately, “The Lottery” is not that kind of a story. It is a twisted story that delves into the darker nature of humans and how far people are willing to blindly following traditions.

The setting for the story is a small village of about three hundred people. The day was June 27th around 10 o’clock on a clear and sunny summer day. The beauty of this day was shatter to commit such an atrocity as the villagers were gathering around the town square to prepare for the annual “lottery”. On this day, one lucky villager gets to be the center of attention as stones are hurled at them by their family, friends, and neighbors with every intention of killing them. It is an annual tradition that have been around longer than the town’s Old Man Warner, who is 77 years old, have been alive being passed down by the very first settlers of the village.

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The annual “lottery” was conducted by Mr. Joe Summers who runs the town’s other events such as the square dances, the teen club, and the Halloween program. Mr. Summers, who has a lot of free time and energy to devote, seems to take his job very seriously. Throughout the years, a lot of the ritual had been forgotten or discarded and even in some villages, the lotteries were completely given up. The black box, not the original one that was handed down by the first settlers, had been aging and originally used wood chips for the drawing. Due to the population growth of the village, it was no longer feasible to use the wood chips in the black box and in substitution, uses paper slips now. In the middle of one of the slips, there was a black dot that determined the fate of the unlucky individual.

Today, that unlucky individual was Tessie Hutchinson. Tessie Hutchinson has a family of seven; her husband Bill, a teenage daughter Nancy, two sons Bill Jr. and Little Dave, and two daughters Don and Eva, that had been married off. On this unfortunate day, maybe her fate had already been predetermined. She had been late to the square because she wanted to ensure that the dishes had been cleaned. When Mr. Bill Hutchinson drew the unlucky slip for the family, Tessie made an unsightly commotion about Mr. Summers not giving her husband enough time to draw and she felt it was unfair that he had been rushed. Tessie tried to push the draw onto her own married daughters but that was not how it works. Daughters who are married draw under their husband’s family names.

As her husband and children drew the slips for the second round, Tessie kept saying it was unfair and trying to get the villagers to side with her. Her family had accepted their fate if it was meant to be but Tessie just kept on fighting it all the way to the end where she was stoned to death. It was very alarming, that the villagers felt natural in the way they spoke and picked up the rocks. That it was natural to stone someone to death; even Old Man Warner encouraging everyone and someone had given Tessie’s son little Davy a few pebbles.

Shirley Jackson wrote a fantastic short story that can contribute to the discussions about cultural or historical events, attitudes or even rituals awareness that should be changed. Throughout our world history, there have been significant historical events that have happened where people have blindly followed and were able commit atrocious acts of violence against another human being. From the religious violence of the Crusades to the Holocaust during World War II and even more current, the acts of terrorism against people with different views or way of life.

How are individuals able to devalue the life of another human being as to take those lives with such ease by blindly following orders from “godly beings” or a person of authority? The self preservation of one or one’s family could make anyone commit such acts of violence. An act of self preservation is justifiable and in some states, it is even a law. What if the individual commits those acts following orders out of fear for self preservation? Like Shirley Jackson states “Am I walking towards something I should be running from?”

An example of that would be the conscription in the United States commonly known as the draft. The draft has been employed by the U.S. Federal government in five conflicts: the American Revolution, the American Civil War, World War I, World War II, and the Cold War to include both the Korean War and the Vietnam War. The United States of America now has an All Volunteer Armed Forces and no longer relies on conscription but still maintains the Selective Service registration as a back up. There other countries that has compulsory and volunteer military services as well.

With today’s generation, who has quick access to information from the internet through smart phones and computers, they take everything at face value without doing a little bit of research for themselves to ensure that the information is legit. As society, the younger generation tends to follow the crowd because it is the trend and it is cool. If society is to change and become better, we can’t just blindly charge forward because it is tradition or “we’ve always done it this way” mentality. We must determine what is right over wrong and chose the hard path over the easy path.

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