The though they know it is wrong,
The Lottery by Shirley Jackson When we think of winning a lottery we normally think that this would be a good thing. Of course in Shirley Jackson’s story The Lottery this is not the case. The principal irony of the story is that the winner of the lottery in the story gets stoned to death by everyone else in the town.
The story is very effective because it examines certain aspects of human nature, and because the victim, with whom we identify, is one of the more developed characters. One aspect of human nature that is examined, and that adds to the effectiveness of the story, is man’s tendency to resist change. This is shown in more than one way.
The first way is the way some villagers tolerate the lottery even though they know it is wrong, and it serves no purpose. They talk about how other towns have already stopped having lotteries, but they allow it to continue year after year. Old man Warner even says “there’s nothing but trouble” in quitting lotteries. Townsfolk listen to him because he has been in the lottery seventy-seven years. The townsfolk feel helpless to change things because they have been going on for so long. The fact that the box is old and needs to be replaced but no one takes on the job of making a new one because that would be an alteration of the way things had been done for many years also shows man’s resistance to change. This sort of resistence to change is seen in everyday life.
An example is “rook term.” The things that the first years put up with during their first few months at RMC are stupid, and serve no purpose, but it continues in the name of tradition. This aspect of human nature, because we are familiar with it, adds to the effectiveness of the story. Another aspect of human nature that we see in the story, and that adds to the effectiveness of the story, is the ability of man to hide his fear by joking about danger. When Mrs. Hutchinson arrives late, her husband jokes about “getting along without her,” and she jokes back about leaving dishes in the sink. The whole town laughs.
They must joke because someone they know will die very soon, and they have to cover their fear. This adds to the effectiveness of the story because we have all seen people act this way. The next aspect of human nature that the author looks at, and that adds to the effectiveness of the story, is denial. As soon as her husband has drawn the black dot, Mrs. Hutchinson begins to complain that her husband wasn’t given enough time to choose. She was content to allow someone else to die, but when it was going to be someone in her family she began to complain about procedure.
This is something almost everyone would do. Denial is typical of humans, and the author uses it to make the story more effective. The “crowd mentality” is another facet of human nature that we see in the story, and that adds to the potency of the story. In a crowd the stoning can be justified by each person present because they can tell themselves that they didn’t kill Mrs. Hutchinson.
They only threw one or two rocks. Everyone else killed her. This kind of phenomenon accounts for deaths in British soccer matches every year. People fall and are trampled to death by other human beings. Since we are familiar with this side of human nature, it’s appearance adds to the effectiveness of the story. The story is made more effective because the victim in the story is one of the more developed characters. Mrs.
Hutchinson and her husband are two of the people we meet early on in the story. We identify with them because most of the other 300 townsfolk are faceless to us. The story is too short to develop too many characters, so we identify with those characters that are more developed. She becomes like a friend to us, and then she dies. We empathize with her and her husband, and this adds to the effectiveness of the story.
Shirley Jackson’s story The Lottery is effective because it examines certain aspects of human nature, and because the victim is one of the more developed characters and one we can empathize with. We feel shock and disgust at her death, but we are forced to look at ourselves and our society. We are forced to look for answers.Bibliography: