The Lottery by Shirley Jackson is a short story about a small town and their unique summer tradition. This stories thematic element is conformity and rebellion, showing “a clash between two well-articulated positions in which a rebel, on principle, confronts and struggles with established authority’ (Abacarian and Klotz, 289). Jackson’s short story caught my attention through her suspenseful structural technique, and incorporation of a serious, seemingly absurd, event in a nonchalant manner.
Mr. Summers, who devotes his time to running civic activities, runs this event very year on June 27th. The children are always the first to assemble, innocent to the severity of the event that is about to occur. The head of the household each picks a piece of paper out of a black box, and keeps it sealed until everyone has picked. At the same time all of the men open their papers, and whoever’s family has the paper with the black dot has been selected. This year, it was the Hutchinson family.
Now, the paper with the dot is placed back in the box along with more blank slips to equal the amount of people in the family. They each pick, and the person who picks the lack dot is the “winner”, who then gets stoned by the town. Until the very end of the short story the reader is very much unaware of the situation and why this lottery is taking place, which is one reason I picked this story. Suspense in a story is one of my favorite elements and always keeps me wanting to read in order to find out what happens.
Through most of the story Jackson shows the town quite cheerful and happy, but she begins to hint towards a dramatic event with statements such as “a sudden hush fell on the crowd” Oackson,342), “l wish theyd hurry. I wish theyd hurry’ Oackson, 343), and “a long pause, a breathless pause” Oackson, 343). Once I realized what the point of the lottery is, I quickly thought back through the story and realized how apathetic she was towards this event. Throughout the course of the story, Jackson showed many of the characters acting very casual and carefree, even though one of their town’s members was about to be stoned.
I liked the way Jackson incorporated the idea of stones with the children in the beginning of the story. This makes the reader originally question its relevance and shows the innocence of youth. She then follows later with the elderly man stating that he had been at these lotteries for seventy-seven years, which showed the town being used to the tradition and show normal it was to the society, and how it only negatively affects the person who “won” and their family.
The characters discuss how many towns have gotten rid of this tradition, and Old Man Warner states “Nothing but trouble in that,’, Old Man Warner said stoutly. ‘Pack of young fools”0ackson, 342). This displays the theme of conformity and rebellion, since the younger generations want to get rid of the tradition, and the older enerations with more power over the society believe it is for the best. Even the death of an individual in their town they say is necessary and tradition, which I found astonishing. oliday atmosphere, which concludes with a horrific event. The holiday atmosphere is used to diminish the immortality of the event, but the author successfully uses the happiness to add suspense to the tradition and add a dark twist to the severity of it all. Overall, the suspense positively adds to the structure of the story and the casual aspect of the stoning and death of a citizen follows the theme of conformity and rebellion.