“The Lottery”- by Shirley Jackson
Critics of Hageman’s essay
Overall, I believe Hageman’s essay is a well developed paper in which the claim is made that the meaning of “The Lottery” is mediated through symbols. There are supporting details of the symbolism Hageman pointed out in his paper. The double meaning of the use of the black box which according to Hageman is a representation of death; the second symbol is the oldness of the black box representing the tradition of these townspeople; also, the emphasis of human selfishness through Tessie’s reaction; and the significance of Mr. Warner’s and Tessie Hutchinson’s name in the story.
I think Hageman did a great job in setting up his main point that Jackson effectively delivers her chilling message about the power of tradition through symbols in the second paragraph. Here he supplies his interpretation of the significance of the black box used in “The Lottery”. He said “the black box is suggestive of death” (129), in other words, every time the black box is used a death is coming. Hageman’s interpretation of the black box as a symbol of death really conveys the meaning because as is believed for most people, the black color implies bad luck or death.
At the end of the third paragraph Hageman uses the term, “old splintered black box”, suggesting that Jackson emphasized the condition of the box to promote her case that there is a need in the village for a new tradition and that the people of this community, by refusing to change the box, are also refusing to become more progressive. I think he could elaborate on this sentence a little bit more by explaining some of the factors as to why people “fail to see the need for a change” (131). For instance, people avoid change because it implies discomfort. As humans, we get attached to certain things just because they have always been in our lives and it is really uncomfortable to bring in new, unfamiliar things we do not understand. “The Lottery” for the people of this town is a tradition, it is part of their life style, it just seems hard to get rid of it.
On the other hand, in the fourth paragraph Hageman is somewhat limited in interpreting the meaning of people’s names and telling how the characters whose names defined them supported the story’s overall message. For example, “the author emphasizes the uselessness of the lottery through Mr. Warner’s ignorant defense of it” (131). Mr. Warner plays an important role in the Lottery because the meaning of his name is warrior as well as someone that gives advice to people about potential danger. According to Hageman, Mr. Warner’s comment, “Nothing but trouble in that…Pack of young fools” shows that Mr. Warner believes that all changes are bad. However, I believe that through his comment he was warning the community that the new generation was bringing a change to their town and, as a result, they will cause trouble to the people of the town simply because like Mr. Warner, people in the town believe change involves trouble.
In the sixth paragraph, Hageman explains that Tessie’s mood changed as soon as she found out that one of her family members was chosen, and Tessie yelled out loud that it was not fair. Tessie Hutchinson’s name is used differently from the others in the story. The name Hutchinson is a historical name of one of America's Christian leaders; Anne Hutchinson. Because Anne Hutchinson fought religious rules with little hope that someone would speak in her defense, Jackson named Tessie with the last name “Hutchinson,” like Anne, Tessie was against one of the religious practices of the villagers. Also, like Anne Hutchinson, Tessie ended up being murdered by the villagers.
I agree with Hageman’s assessment that Tessie represents human selfishness. Even though she was against the ritual of the lottery, she did not say a word until one of her family members was picked. The fact that Tessie wanted to start all over again so that her family could have another chance, shows the little love she had for her family and the human selfishness. Sadly, as it is human nature, people always look for their own benefit and happiness, unfortunately, numbers of times these incidents entails taking others’ happiness as well.
Finally, Hageman did a great job in presenting his analysis of “The Lottery” which shows how Jackson uses symbols to convey a powerful message about the danger in following an outworn tradition which has the power to cause human suffering. He provided a detailed paper and he was, most of the time, clear in his argument. As I said before, Hageman missed some points that could have significantly improved his paper, such as providing more details and interpretation of Mr. Warner’s and Tessie Hutchinson’s name. But in general, I really liked the way he developed his main claims throughout his paper.