While the setting of Shirley Jacksons, The Lottery, takes place on a clear,sunny, June day, it does not take long for the skies to turn gray as sheintroduces the readers to the black box. The black box is the central symbol ofthe short story. It suggest both death and necessity of change due to acombination of the passage of time and population expansion. The reference tothe black box as a symbol of death can be seen in many instances throughoutthe story. For example, when the box is first introduced, “the villagers kepttheir distance, leaving a space between themselves and the stool ( which the boxwas placed on).” People are afraid and the distance they kept was not due totheir fear of the box, but of what the box stood for . . . death. This point isfurther illustrated through the manner in which the box was stored. “The restof the year, the box was put away, sometimes one place, sometimes another; ithad spent one year in Mr. Graves barn and another year underfoot in the postoffice, and sometimes it was set on a shelf in the Martin grocery and leftthere.” Death is not something that people deal with everyday. Human beingsdeal with death very similar to the way that the towns people stored the blackbox. People place their experiences with death in different rooms and shelves oftheir hearts. The black box also symbolizes the need for a new tradition and thereluctance of the townspeople to accept change. The black box is a symbol of thelottery itself. The physical appearance of the box suggest that it was not onlythe black box that needed to be replaced but the tradition of the lottery.
“The black box grew shabbier each year; by now it was no longer completelyblack but splintered badly along one side to show the original wood color, andin some places faded or stained.” As the physical appearance of the black boxdeteriorated so did the appropriateness of the tradition. Takash 2 Mr. Adamsrevealed in his conversation with Old Man Warner that many of the townssurrounding them had already ceased the lottery tradition and many more were inthe process of discussing it, thus further proving that the lottery has lost itssignificance. In reply to Mr. Adams remarks, Old Man Warner says, “Theresalways been a lottery .” and “Nothing but trouble in that, pack of youngfools.” Old Man Warners response to Mr. Adams exemplifies the unwillingnessof the townspeople to change the tradition and the townspeoples failure toaccept the need for change. The dark clouds that came into view when the box wasfirst introduced become a full fledged storm at the conclusion of the story. Theblack box became the ultimate symbol of death as it is the very vechile thatdelivers the unfortunate winners prize which is death by stoning. The stormof immoral and unethical actions is further propelled by the momentum that camefrom the townspeoples extreme degree of self interest. The terrible traditionwas carried out once again. Instead of considering the effect that the traditionhad on their fellow man they were grateful that the black box had blessed themwith their own lives. As far as they were concerned the sky was blue and the sunwas still shining.