The main theme of “The Lottery,” by Shirley Jackson, is tradition. Traditions are beliefs, legends, customs, information and other things that are passed down from generation to generation. This theme is shown in many different ways throughout the story. The first way tradition is shown in the story is with the ritual that the town people call the lottery. The second way tradition is shown is by the character Mrs. Hutchinson. Another character that helps show tradition is Old Man Warner.
The last and most important symbol of tradition is shown with the black box. The first example of tradition shown in the story is the actual lottery ritual. The lottery takes place every year on June 27th. In the ritual the people from the town gather around and the person running the lottery makes sure all the families are present. Then one man per house hold stand and pick a paper from the black box. After everyone has a piece of paper they look at the paper to figure out which family has the dot and must choose again.
They do the whole process over only this time the person with the dot on their paper gets stoned to death. This ritual is done under the impression that because they do this they will have good crops, “Lottery in June, corn be heavy soon” (Jackson 98). The second example of tradition in the story is Mrs. Hutchinson. Her role in the story is very traditional. You can tell this by the conversation she has with Mr. Summers. When she says “Wouldn’t have me leave m’dishes in the sink, now, would you. Joe? it shows how tradition her really role is (Jackson 97). You can tell she plays a very traditional role in the town because she is doing house work. You can also tell it’s very traditional because she is referred to as “Missus, Hutchinson” throughout, until she show up late to the lottery (Jackson 97). Once Mrs. Hutchinson shows up to the lottery late she is referred to as Tessie. By being referred to as Tessie it’s as if she wasn’t respected anymore in the town. The third example of tradition shown in the story is Old Man Warner.
He is the oldest man in the town and has survived the lottery ritual all his life. Old Man Warner talks about how the old days use to be and how people have changed “it’s not the way it used to be” (Jackson 100). Old Man Warner is also very content with the tradition of the ritual this is shown when he is talking to Mr. Adams. As Mr. Adams tells Old Man Warner that the kids in other towns are getting rid of the lottery Old Man Warner says “pack of crazy fools,” “Listening to them young folks, nothing’s good enough for them…” (Jackson 98).
Show that the ritual is very important in the town and always has been. The final example of tradition shown in “The Lottery,” by Jackson, is the black box. The black box is part of the ritual. The black box is where everyone picks the piece of paper that determines whether one of their family members dies, or whether all their family members live. The black box was made out of wood and from pieces of the previous black boxes. The black box was also fading and stained on one side and losing its black paint on the other. Mr. Summers spoke to the villagers frequently about making a new box” but the villagers didn’t want to (Jackson 96). “No one liked to upset … as much tradition represented by the black box” with just them not wanting to change the box you can tell how hung up on tradition they really are (Jackson 96). Also how much no one liked the idea of change. All of these examples show that the theme of “The Lottery,” by Jackson, is tradition. They all show how traditional this town is and how it doesn’t really want to change much.
It seems to be meaningless the fact that they may lose a family member, friend or neighbor due to their ritual. It doesn’t matter because they will have a good crop to eat for the rest of the summer. That’s why the theme is tradition. Work Cited Jackson, Shirley. “The Lottery. ” Let Us Go Then, You and I: Materials and Suggestions for Critical Thinking and Writing about Literature. Ed. Michael Pogach. Bethlehem: Northampton Community College. 2011. 95-100. Print.
Cite this “The Lottery” Traditions and Legends
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