Regardless of the type of society people live in controversial topics and cowardly individuals can create conflict. The stories “The Lottery” by Shirley Jackson and “Hills like White Elephants” by Ernest Hemingway implement this concept. “The Lottery” is about a small town that holds an annual lottery in which the winner will be killed. “Hills like White Elephants” is the story of a couple’s discussion over the decision they must make of whether or not to terminate their pregnancy.
The social controversies and the weak female characters in these stories are similar, although their social structure is very different. The social controversy depicted in “The Lottery” is murder and in “Hills like White Elephants” the social controversy is abortion. Murder and abortion are both a loss of life that causes conflict among the characters of these stories. In “The Lottery” Mrs. Hutchinson is killed by her own friends and family, this is similar to what might happen to Jig’s unborn child in “Hills like White Elephants”.
The discussion between the couple is about whether she will have an abortion. Both stories depict controversial topics, an abrupt unforeseen murder at the end of “The Lottery” and an argument over having an abortion in “Hills like White Elephants”. The reader is left to draw their own conclusions about why the villagers in “The Lottery” kill a person every year. In most societies murder is illegal and immoral. The characters do not argue with the annual event as if it is a normal part of life to murder a person for tradition.
The reader is left to draw their own conclusions about the decision the girl will make in “Hills like White Elephants”. Abortion is a controversial topic and is also illegal in some places. Some people perceive it as murder. Jig is very torn between her choices to have an abortion to appease her lover or have a baby he does not want. The leading female characters in “The Lottery” and “Hills like White Elephants” are weak. Neither Mrs. Hutchinson nor Jig stands up for themselves. They both are faced with going through with an act that is controversial.
They are also not willing to protect their own children for fear of upsetting the other characters in the stories. Mrs. Hutchinson points the finger at her two children because they did not draw from the box. She puts them in harm’s way to save her husband, which is similar to Jig, who is willing to abort her baby to keep her lover. Mrs. Hutchinson never states her true feeling about the lottery until the very end when she is the one picked to be stoned to death. She states “it isn’t fair, it isn’t right” (Jackson. 54). It is the first time she voiced her opinion even though she felt this way all along.
Lori Voth states in “Analysis of “The Lottery” “Jackson uses the protagonist, Mrs. Hutchinson, to show an individual consumed by hypocrisy and weakness”. She knew it was inhuman to murder someone but was too weak to say so. Jig also goes along with her lover, not for her own happiness but for his. She states “Then I’ll do it. Because I don’t care about me” (Hemingway. 200). She agrees to get an abortion even though it is not what she wants but what he wants. She is also too weak to tell him she wants to keep the baby. She is fearful of losing the man. Both women are cowardly.
The differences between “The Lottery” and “Hills like White Elephants” are social structure in which they live. The people in “The Lottery” are traditional townsfolk. They are depicted as having traditional values. They have families and a sense of community. The center of their daily lives is based on the good of the town. The social dynamic in “Hills like White Elephants” is about the good of the two individuals. The man does not want to be tied down by the baby and the girl does not want to lose the man. They are free spirited travelers with no friends or family around them.
They are not concerned with traditional values or family. They are individuals that are portrayed as self-serving. The stories “The Lottery” and “Hills like White Elephants” are similar with the social controversy that cause conflict and the weak lead female characters. Yet they are different regarding their social surroundings. One set in a traditional town centered on the needs of the community and the other with two self-serving characters concerned with their individual needs. Both leading female characters are weak and unable to speak up for themselves when faced with social controversy.