Tradition Exposed In Shirley Jackson's The Lottery

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Many current customs can be traced back hundreds of years. Sometimes these traditions change over time, often so much so that the details or even the original purpose can be forgotten. In her short story “The Lottery,” Shirley Jackson points out how even modern will participate in rituals that can range from foolish to barbaric in the name of antiquated cultural customs whose details and very purpose has long been forgotten.
Jackson sets the scene with a description of a sunny…summer day” in a civilized community, with a “post office,” “bank,” and a “school” (paragraph 1). Little children play with stones” and run around in the schoolyard (2). Then, people gather in the square for what sounds like a festive communal activity. Jackson gives
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After Mrs. Hutchinson is finally chosen, someone says “let’s finish quickly,” and the crowd advances on Mrs. Hutchinson, bringing a deep sense of foreboding in the reader. Mrs. Hutchinson, who was in favor of the lottery before, now begins to protest vehemently the ethicality of the practice. Everyone begins to pick up stones. Mrs. Delacroix, who minutes ago was laughing with Mrs. Hutchinson, “[selects] a stone so large she had to [use] two hands” (75). Someone even gives her little son Davy a few “pebbles with which to stone his mother (76). By describing such an idyllic scene and a somewhat advanced culture, Jackson encourages the audience to liken their own experiences with community functions to the one in the story. Introducing such a shocking about face as the town stoning one of its own, seemingly for no good reason, calls into question the other actions that individuals participate in on account of tradition or peer pressure. One might use slavery as an example, a practice spanning generations that is undoubtedly inhumane and wrong by modern standards, but was at one time accepted as commonplace. With this comparison, Jackson elicits a shocked and disgusted reaction from her readers, provoking them to think deeply about their own society’s values and
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