“The Lottery” is a dynamic short story with several motifs and ideas such as the power behind tradition and family. However, more importantly, it has a strong over arching theme that captures the dynamic nature of the short story: outer appearances can be deceiving. This reoccurring theme is illustrated by the idea of the lottery, and the nature of humanity as depicted in the story: weak and evil. The theme, outer appearances can be deceiving, is depicted by the short story’s concept of a lottery and title, “The Lottery”.
The idea of a lottery in contemporary culture has a positive connotation as depicted by the media, such as winning large sums of money or expensive new vehicles. However, in the short story, the lottery turns out to be a game of death: winning means to be violently stoned to death. Thus, the idea of a lottery in the story is somewhat deceiving because the winner of the lottery wins something negative such as brutal death rather than something luxurious and grand. Hence, outer appearances can be deceiving because the meaning of a lottery within the culture of the short story is contrary to the contemporary idea of a lottery.
Furthermore, none of the villagers want to win the lottery. Tessie illustrates this when she said, “You didn’t give him time enough to take any paper that he wanted. I saw you. It wasn’t fair! ” In this quote, Tessie is saying that it was not fair that they got the paper with the black spot on it indicating that they were the winners of the lottery: destined to be stoned by friends and family as human sacrifices. Winning the lottery is often seen as a positive event, however, in the short story due to the dark nature of the lottery no one wants to win it.
Furthermore, the over arching theme of outer appearances can be deceiving is further shown by the nature of humanity within the short story, particularly the evil side. The underlying evil and weakness of human kind is seen in the villagers that blindly comply with tradition. Thus, the nature of human kind is deceiving because instead of standing up to tradition and helping others in their time of need people within the story depict their weakness and lack of morality by complying to an old brutal tradition of human sacrifice.
The theme is shown by the nature of the villagers. Even the lack of innocence of the children within the story depicts the theme. Children thought to be sweet, young, and pure are illustrated in the story stoning and partaking in the human sacrifice; Davy stones his own mother. Hence, the nature of humanity can be deceiving. Also, the author’s portrayal of evil in this ordinary, close-knit atmosphere suggests that people are not always as they seem.
For example, the friendly gesture among the villagers and the presentation of the lottery illustrates the lottery as a festive event when in fact it is an event for human sacrifice. Moreover, the overarching theme is represented by the underlying weakness within the villagers towards the tradition of the lottery. Seen in comments such as “Don’t be nervous Jack”, “Get up there Bill” and “Mrs. Delacroix’s holding her breath as her husband went forward,” indicates that the villagers are not entirely comfortable with the event.
However, no one in the village openly expresses their fear or discomfort toward the lottery because many individuals are not strong enough to confront their disapproval and the fear of being rejected by society illustrates the weakness of human kind. Hence, the short story “The Lottery” has an over arching theme that ties the story together as the story progresses to the end: outer appearances can be deceiving. Different ideas and events throughout the story illustrate the theme such as the idea of the lottery and the underlying nature of the villagers.