The Lottery” by Shirley Jackson Essay

 

In “The Lottery” by Shirley Jackson, if the townspeople had put Tessie Hutchinson in a chicken coop for winning the lottery, they would have done it because they are blindly following an old tradition. The lottery seems to be a forgotten religious ceremony. Although the town’s citizens do not know the original intent or ritual of the lottery, they continue to practice it. Jackson writes, “at one time, some people remembered, there had been a recital of some sort, performed by the official of the lottery, a perfunctory, tuneless chant that had been rattled off duly each year.” When Mr. Adams mentions that some villages are thinking of doing away with the lottery, Old Man Warner responds, “’Lottery in June, corn be heavy soon.’ First thing you know, we’d all be eating stewed chickweed and acorns. There’s always been a lottery.”

The townspeople seem very superstitious and unwilling to change their way of life even though what they are doing is outrageous. Some of the citizens seem to know this, but they are drowned out by the majority. However, it is also possible that the majority disagrees with the practice, but are overruled by a louder, more emphatic minority. Jackson’s message here is clear: we cannot become so stuck in rituals that we fail to challenge our traditions when they are no longer relevant.