Symbolism in Shirley Jackson's the Lottery Term Paper

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Lottery by Shirley Jackson. Specifically it will discuss symbolism in the story, and how symbolism functions as a whole. Symbolism is one of the main themes of "The Lottery," and author Jackson develops and creates the story carefully to make the most of the symbolism she uses throughout it. The story symbolizes the black human nature that can be a part of all humankind, and illustrates how your neighbors can turn against you in an instant if it is to their benefit, or if the community condones it. This shows how close to animals humans really are. Jackson's symbolism is frightening because it is so accurate and so true of humankind.

Jackson's story is an intimate look into human nature and how humans can be intensely evil if they are allowed to be. She uses the symbolism of the yearly community event to show how the town's residents turn ugly and evil in just a few moments. This symbolizes the evil that can live in all of us, and how it only takes a moment for it to show itself. The townspeople gather, joke, and banter as they wait to draw who will die. That makes the symbolism even more terrifying, because they know what is going to happen and they make light of their own cruelty and ability to harm others. Jackson writes of their indifference, "The women, wearing faded house dresses and sweaters, came shortly after their menfolk. They greeted one another and exchanged bits of gossip as they went to join their husbands" (Jackson). This could be any community gathering, from the annual town picnic to a school event or even a religious event, and that makes the symbolism even more evil, just like townspeople. The townspeople symbolize evil, but they also symbolize the indifference of a society that allows something like this to occur and continue. Jackson notes, "Although the villagers had forgotten the ritual and lost the original black box, they still remembered to use stones" (Jackson). Indifferent to the suffering of the victim, they gather their rocks to stone Tessie Hutchinson with near glee, when the day before they were gossiping about neighborhood events.

The symbolism of this story is frightening because the villagers all seem so normal, just like the person who lives next door to you. Current events, such as the child molester caught after his face appeared on the "Oprah Winfrey" show indicate that the person next door is not always who they seem. In this town, the person next door could be the participant one year and the victim the next, and that makes the symbolism frightening and very up-to-date at the same time. As a society, we seem to have grown more apart from our neighbors, our fellow residents, and even our fellow citizens. We shut ourselves off from people and live in our own "cocoons," and this story symbolizes the very worst parts of this society that shuts itself off from others. Only in a society that is enshrined in tradition without any reason for it, and a society that shuts itself off from others could something like the "lottery" occur. That the people have allowed it to continue "just because" shows their inhumanity, their inability to change, and their lack of commitment to others. All of these items symbolize what is going wrong with our society today, and what is wrong with humankind.

The symbolism that the lottery is traditional is also quite important to the story. There is a general feeling in society of "that's the way it's always been done," which leads society to fear change and innovation. Jackson shows this need to hang on to tradition at all costs with the old man who symbolizes the "old school." She writes, "Old Man Warner snorted. 'Pack of crazy fools,' he said. 'Listening to the young folks, nothing's good enough for them. Next thing you know, they'll be wanting to go back to living in caves, nobody work any more, live hat way for a while'" (Jackson). Old Man Warner is steeped in tradition, even if the tradition is wrong or outmoded. He symbolizes the part of society that refused to change or adapt, no matter what. This also symbolizes how society is so intent on ritual that it may continue rituals that no longer have a purpose or a meaning, simply to continue the tradition. Old Man Warner continues, "Used to be a saying about "Lottery…[continue]

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"The-Lottery--Shirley-Jackson-(1916-1965)" 

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