s were blooming profusely and the grass was
s Who Walk Away FromComparison and Contrast of The Lottery and The Ones Who Walk Away from OmelasThe differences between “The Lottery” by Shirley Jackson and “The OnesWho Walk Away from Omelas” by Ursula K.
Le Guin seem relatively minor whencompared to the striking similarities they contain in setting, symbols, andtheme.Each of the stories begin with a description of a beautiful summer day.”The flowers were blooming profusely and the grass was richly green”(para 1) in”The Lottery” is quite comparable to “old moss-grown gardens and under avenuesof trees”(para 1) in “…
Omelas.” These descriptions (along with severalothers) provide positive connotations and allow the reader to relax into whatseems to be a comfortable setting in either story. Both stories also contain agathering of townspeople. In “…
Omelas there is music, dance, and specialattire incorporated in the gathering, whereas in “The Lottery,” the women showup “wearing faded house dresses and sweaters.” Although Le Guin’s environmentseems more festive, all the folks in both stories are coming together for whatseems to be enjoyable, even celebratory occasions. However, I believe themajor similarity lies in the fact that these many pleasant details create afacade within each story.
The reader is then left ill-prepared when theshocking, brutally violent, ritualistic traditions are exposed.Children are an important focus in both stories. Jackson makes it easyfor us to imagine their “boisterous play”(para 2), and Le Guin writes “theirhigh calls rising like swallows’ crossing flights over the music and thesinging”(para1). I see these children being used to symbolize perceived statesof happiness in both stories. I also believe they are vital necessities in eachstory because they are taught and expected to carry traditions into the future.For instance, in “The Lottery,” “someone gave little Davy Hutchinson a fewpebbles”(para 76), he is then able to participate in the stoning of his ownmother, and in “..
.Omelas,” the tradition “is usually explained to children whenthey are between eight and twelve”(para 10), and of course, the victim in thistale is a child.The fact that both authors include references to farming may be due tothe association between farming and tradition. I know many people who believethat farming is a way of life that is handed down from generation to generation,it is very much a tradition to them. The men in “The Lottery” are “speaking ofplanting and rain, tractors and taxes”(para 3) and in “…
Omelas,” the farmer’smarket is described as nothing less than “magnificent”(para 3). The mostobvious reason for these references is that the rituals performed in bothstories are suppose to have an effect on harvest. “Lottery in June, corn beheavy soon”(para 32) in “The Lottery” used to be a saying heard in theircommunity. And in “…Omelas,” “the abundance of their harvest”(para 9), alongwith many other things, supposedly depended upon their performing the certainritual.
Although the reasons for the traditions are slightly different in eachstory, the rituals themselves are very much alike. Both are shocking and bothinvolve the sacrifice of a human being. Because the sacrifice in “The Lottery”is chosen strictly by chance, age is not a determinant, whereas in “..
.Omelas”the sacrifice is always a child. However, regardless of this difference, whenthe time comes, victims in each of these tales begins pleading for releasefrom their inevitable doom.
The child in “…Omelas” says “Please let me out.
Iwill be good!”(para 8), while in “The Lottery,” Tessie screams, “It isn’t fair,it isn’t right”(para 79). In Le Guin’s story, death comes through slow, twistedtorture. The naked child sacrifice is locked in a dark cellar room, fed only asmall portion of cornmeal and grease once a day, and is allowed no desirablehuman contact or communication. In “The Lottery” the sacrifice is simply stonedto death by the remaining community, including friends and family, although thisisn’t quite as sickening as the method in the other story, it is horrible andwicked nonetheless.
Although it is stated in “…
Omelas” that “they all understand thattheir happiness, the beauty of their city, the tenderness of their friendships,the health of their children, the wisdom of their scholars, the skill of theirmakers, even the abundance of their harvest and the kindly weather of theirskies, depend wholly on this child’s abominable misery,”(para 9) there isevidence that not all agree with it. In fact, after young people see the victimin it’s abhorrent condition, they are described as “shocked and sickened at thesight”(para 10), and “often the young people go home in tears, or in a tearlessrage”(para 12). In “The Lottery,” many parts of the ritual had been altered orlong forgotten by most of the people, this fact in itself, along with a fewother clues tell me that not everyone agrees with it either. One of thecharacters says “seems like there’s no time at all between lotteriesanymore”(para 22), which leads me to believe that she wishes they weren’tperformed as often, or at all, and another states that she hopes it’s not one ofher friends that is chosen(para 66).Based in part on the afore mentioned statements, I have interpreted thethemes in each story to be identical to one another. Not only do I believe thatmany disagree with the practice of both rituals, I also think that theindividual feels helpless in putting a stop to them.
The actions of eachcommunity as a whole seems much greater than the sum of its inhabitants. Forexample, Le Guin writes that some youngsters and “sometimes also a man or womenmuch older” will walk alone “straight out of the city of Omelas, through thebeautiful gates”(para 14). Instead of standing up and saying they don’t believethe ritual is right, they do what is easier for them, they just leave. In “TheLottery,” Mrs.
Adams mentions to Old Man Warner “that over in the northvillage they’re talking of giving up the lottery”(para 31) and that “Some placeshave already quit the lotteries”(para 33), and he replies as a defender of theritual by referring to the quitters as a “Pack of crazy fools” and says “There’salways been a lottery”(para 32). Although she doesn’t say it in so many words,I find it obvious that she feels that the ritual is outmoded and should be putto an end. This in combination with the fact that the majority of townspeopledon’t even remember the reasons behind the ritual, has led me to the conclusionthat they only continue the process for “tradition’s sake.
” Parallel in thesetwo stories is the fact that certain individuals may feel like it, but no one isable to stand up against the action of their community. It just goes to show that humans are creatures of habit and thatsometimes we continue to participate in (or tolerate) harmful practices, simplybecause as individuals we feel powerless and unable to stand up againstsocieties in which the behaviors have always been accepted.