Traditions Proceed With Caution In Shirley Jackson's The Lottery

777 Words4 Pages
Traditions: Proceed With Caution Blowing out the candles on a birthday cake or waiting for presents on Christmas eve are harmless rituals, but not all traditions are so benign. In the 1948 short story, “The Lottery”, Shirley Jackson establishes that traditions can often be presumed to be virtuous; however, they can involve unethical practices which have no place in society. Through the use of archetypes, Jackson highlights this concept by displaying patterns and symbols in an ancient and barbaric tradition. In this world, citizens gather once a year to choose a single person from the community to be stoned to death, in hopes of receiving bountiful crops for their sacrifice. Brutal as the ritual is, the public remains aloof to the cruelty involved. This is due to several factors; hope for a better life, lack of proper knowledge, and an overbearing group mentality amongst the community. The combination of these elements leads to an abnormal and apathetic mentality in this fictional society. Perhaps…show more content…
The characters in this fictional society appear to get along fine and behave regularly for most of the year. However, when the lottery day arrives and a name is picked from the black box, the society immediately gets grouped; person being stoned against everyone else. This group mentality concept leads to the creation of the archetypal character: the scapegoat. The characters are absolutely apathetic towards the chosen person, regardless of close family ties, and the burden of the lottery is dumped on them. This is displayed when “Bill Hutchinson went over to his wife and forced the slip of paper out of her hand” (6). Bill is almost robotic is his actions, and points out his wife to the crowd immediately. By displaying the random persecution of the scapegoat, Jackson is able to emphasize the ruthlessness involved in upholding tradition, and unfortunately most rituals do involve some sort of
Open Document