Monday, August 29, 2011

the lottery

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“The Lottery” is a chilling narrative of the darkness of the human heart and mind.

The story is set on a beautiful summer day, in a seemingly ordinary village. The townsfolk gather for a lottery, wherein the winner receives a prize most unusual death.

Shirley Jackson makes powerful use of irony and symbolism. She describes the day as being euphoric and full of life, though it is in contrast with the atmosphere of the town and of the people gathered in the square. The lottery is officiated by Mr. Summers, whose name emphasizes the ultimate irony, as further seen when he is helped by the postmaster, Mr. Graves. It is also quite ironic that Mr. Adams, whose name suggests human feelings and desires and who was the first to bring up the topic of quitting the lottery, is also the one to first stone Tessie. The black box from which the townsfolk draw their slips of paper, is the symbol of death, as it becomes the very vehicle through which the prize of the ‘winner’ is delivered.

At first glance, one might see Tessie as the hero of the story, whose voice in the end professes that the lottery ‘isn’t fair’ and that ‘it isn’t right’. As a matter of fact, Tessie is a coward, as big a coward as the people of the village were. Until her own life was in danger, she did not dare be an outcast of the community and resist the ritual. She was even willing to put her own daughters’ lives on the line.

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It is truly unbelievable that these civilized people consent to something as primitive as the lottery. All the members of the community participate in this ceremony, knowing full well that one of them will soon be dead. However, they still continue to do nothing about it. But what the people of the village have been doing is playing God. They have no respect for life, as seen in the slips of paper used in the draw. They don’t care if the person to be killed is a neighbor, a friend, a spouse or a son or daughter. They say it is in the name of tradition, but the truth is, unconsciously, they enjoy the killing. They relish in the power they have the power to have another’s life in their hands. Yet, they believe themselves to be civilized people, with their tractors and taxes, and Halloween and square dances. But do civilized people kill for no reason?

Perhaps the saddest thing in the whole story is not the senseless killing, but rather, the fact that the children, in their early age and innocence, are brought up believing that killing people in the name of ‘tradition’ is proper. They are required by the ceremony to participate in a ghastly ritual of cold- blooded murder. These children, who are supposed to be the hope of the future, are shown by their parents the wrong example, as they go about killing people who are innocent, on the grounds of having drawn a paper with a dot on it.

If only somebody dared speak against this atrocious ritual, he or she might have been able to open the minds of the others and let them see for themselves the horrors they are casting upon their own selves.

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