What does “The Lottery” Symbolize?

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All our lives, we've been told stories of far off places and princesses. Stories of heartbreak and superheroes saving cities. Many of these stories have been written to teach us important lessons and morals that many carry with them throughout their whole life. The Lottery, set in a small, isolated town, tells a story where villagers gather to conduct their annual lottery. When Tessie Hutchinson name is drawn it becomes clear what the prize of the lottery really is, a stoning. In the short story, The Lottery, Shirley Jackson uses symbols, foreshadowing and setting to create an ironic sense of horror and teach the reader an important lesson of speaking up for what is right.

In The Lottery, Jackson captivates the reader by using symbols such as the stones and the black box. One of the symbols Shirley Jackson uses is the stones. After Tessie Hutchinson's name is drawn, the villagers prepare for the stoning process, (T)hey still remembered to use stones. (Jackson 7) Stoning is an ancient, cruel method of murder but the villagers continue this outdated ritual because they are afraid of change. The villagers stoning an innocent woman symbolizes what can happen when traditions are not questioned or challenged. Shirley Jackson uses, The Lottery to remind us to speak up for what is right, and fight against injustices. Another symbol Shirley Jackson uses to create a shocking sense of horror in, The Lottery is the black box. On page 2, the author explains the need for a new box but, (N)o one liked to upset even as much tradition as was represented by the black box. (Jackson 2) This symbolizes the illogic of the villager's loyalty to this tradition, even when change is clearly necessary. Similar to the black box, the tradition has lost its purpose and is starting to fall apart.

Not only does Shirley Jackson use symbolism to create a shocking sense of horror but she also uses foreshadowing. One way Jackson uses foreshadowing is through Old Man Warner. When the villagers start talking of the North village giving up the lottery, Old Man Warner refers to them as a, 'Pack of crazy fools.' And says, Used to be a saying about, Lottery in June, corn be heavy soon.' (Jackson 4) This comment foreshadows the fact this this is more than just any other community event. This lottery relates to ancient customs that believe pleasing the God(s) will lead to a good crop season. Another way Shirley Jackson foreshadows the twist ending in, The Lottery is through the children gathering stones. In the very first page it says, Bobby Martin had already stuffed his pockets full of stones, and the other boys soon followed his example, selecting the smoothest and roundest stones(.) (Jackson 1) Even in the second paragraph the author began to foreshadow the ruthlessness and cruelty of this lottery. Even children are preparing to participate in the murder of an innocent person.

The last literature device Shirley Jackson uses is the setting. One way the author uses setting to create a shocking sense of horror in, The Lottery is through the lottery being held in the square. In the very first paragraph of the short story, it explains, The people of the village began to gather in the square. (Jackson 1) This quote is ironic because town squares are normally where events that bring communities together are held, whether that's square dances, or fairs. These events are all very exciting and fun, so this sets the reader up to think is just an ordinary day that will end with a positive, happy outcome. However, this is the exact opposite of what happens later, when the story takes an unexpected, dark turn and the town is torn apart by this horrifying tradition. Another way Shirley Jackson uses setting to create a shocking sense of horror in her short story is through the date the Lottery is held. The Lottery's setting, ""The morning of June 27th"" initially has no significance to the reader but later in the story, Old Man Warner shares a saying, ""Lottery in June, corn be heavy soon"". (Jackson 4) This reveals that the timing of the lottery is actually a crucial part of this tradition. Many old religious ceremonies were held at mid-summer time, the timing of the lottery is one of the subtle ways the author suggests that this is an ancient ritual.

In conclusion, Shirley Jackson uses literature devices such as symbolism, foreshadowing and setting, to show the reader the consequence of following blindly. The villagers of the town set in, The Lottery, had every opportunity to speak against this obsolete tradition, but their fear of change and going against normality cost the life of an innocent woman. These texts serve as a lesson of the importance of speaking up for what is right, because, though going against social norms can be daunting, with it comes growth and innovation.

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What Does "The Lottery" Symbolize?. (2019, Aug 02). Retrieved June 15, 2024 , from

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