The Lottery By Ursula Leguin: Literary Analysis

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The fictional stories “The Lottery” by Shirley Jackson and “The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas” by Ursula LeGuin have a common occurrence: people sacrifice the happiness of others for their own happiness. By comparing and contrasting the setting, tradition within the story, and the actions of the ones who disagree with the tradition, we are able to clearly see how this sacrifice takes place. In both short stories, the setting is peaceful at first. In “The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas,” the story begins with a description of the society. LeGuin writes, “In the silence of the broad green meadows one could hear the music winding throughout the city streets, farther and nearer and ever approaching, a cheerful faint sweetness of the air from…show more content…
In “The Lottery,” the characters are participating in a drawing, which the reader falsely assumes is a good thing. Later in the story, Jackson juxtaposes this idea with the brutal killing of the winner. There are symbols throughout the story that suggest the story is not as wonderful as it seems. For example, the black box used for the drawing symbolizes death and the children are making a pile of stones which seems innocent at first but will later be used to complete the annual tradition. The characters in this short story continue carrying out the tradition because “Lottery in June, corn be heavy soon” (Jackson, 4), which insinuates that the purpose of the drawing is to increase crop yields. The one who wins the lottery suffers while everyone else in the society benefits; they continue being happy at the expense of the unfortunate character who wins. In “The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas,” one child is chosen and forced to live in an unpleasant basement with undesirable living conditions. Everybody in the society knows of this child’s suffering but refrains from helping him in order to continue being happy themselves. LeGuin writes, “Some of them understand why, and some do not, but they all understand that their happiness, the beauty of their city, the tenderness of their friendships, the health of their children,...depend wholly on this child’s abominable misery” (LeGuin, 3). The people in Omelas…show more content…
In “The Lottery,” there seems to be only one person who disagrees: the winner of the lottery, Tessie Hutchinson. This is actually quite ironic considering she was totally comfortable with the tradition before learning that she had won. Jackson wrote “It isn’t fair, it isn’t right,” (Jackson, 7) to express Tessie Hutchinson’s disagreement with the tradition. Tessie Hutchinson suffers so that the others may enjoy a plentiful harvest. In “The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas,” it is suggested that there are multiple people who disagree with the tradition. These people simply walk away to the unknown in hopes it will be better. LeGuin wrote, “But they seem to know where they are going, the ones who walk away from Omelas” (LeGuin, 4). The ones who disagree do not waste effort or time trying to save the boy or convince others to change the tradition, perhaps because they know it will be to no avail. The people who continue to stay in the society are happy as a result of the child suffering in the basement, and those who walk away are happy because they no longer have the burden of knowing the child suffers for them while the child still remains. People sacrificing the happiness of others for their own happiness is a common occurrence in both Shirley Jackson’s “The Lottery” and Ursula K. LeGuin’s “The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas.” The similarities and differences of the setting, the tradition

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