Theme Of Shamelessness In Shirley Jackson's The Lottery

969 Words4 Pages
In “The Lottery” by Shirley Jackson, Jackson depicts a society, dominated by men, where ritual murder not only is tolerated but also embraced. It is a society where, every year, the villagers come together and randomly draw slips of paper to determine which member of a family is going to be murdered. “The Lottery” shows an “innate savagery of man" (Nebeker 1). Despite a civilized outward appearance with schools, post offices, and banks, the villagers have not progressed from a primitive and inner Cain and Abel mentality where they are able to kill savagely on command with no remorse and no shame, just like Cain, who was able to kill his brother with no shame because Cain's offering was insufficient. The theme of shamelessness in a male-dominated society runs throughout “The Lottery,” not just during its horrible ending, and especially becomes obvious in the villagers’ lack of respect for life.

Through the words of the male villagers, Jackson shows they feel no shame for what is about to happen. Specifically, the men show no shame in how they talk down to the women and express superiority. In one example, Clyde Dunbar is unable to draw, so Mrs. Dunbar decides to draw for him. Mr. Summers says to her, “‘Wife draws for her husband’ [...] ‘Don’t you have a grown boy to do it for you’
…show more content…
From the villagers’ words to their actions to their lack of value placed on life, Jackson shows a society that conducts a ritual killing in the same manner that it conducts “square dances, the teen club, the Halloween program” (Jackson 1). While most are unaffected, some of the villagers call for change by saying the Lottery is unfair; others say that a few towns have quit the Lottery altogether. In a powerful way, Jackson shows the reader the importance of saying the right thing, doing the right thing, and valuing human life by not being ashamed to stand up against
Open Document