The Lottery and Tradition
The story may have been seen as an attempt to look at traditions that have become questionable. In “The Lottery” Jackson attempts to compare real world traditions that are no longer relevant, with those of the story by displaying what happens when traditions goes without question, when the reason or history is not known, and when there is resistance to change.
Who stops or changes a male dominated society the oppresses women and children? At the beginning of the story, Jackson created an environment of irony. She described a village where it was summertime, the flowers were blooming, and the grass was described to be richly green. It was a setting that would be great for summer activities such as picnics or swimming. However, the villagers were preparing for something else: to stone the unfortunate person whose name would be drawn from the box fill with all the villagers’ names. Jackson described the activity as one traditionally done and called “the lottery.
” All the villagers participated in the lottery. The box where the names were pulled from has been used for such a long time; it is even older than the oldest person in the village, Old Man Warner. A reader might begin to see how tradition has existed for so long that nobody even has questioned it. Everybody, including the young children, happily prepare for it. More than likely, a reader would recognize that the stones the young boys were gathering at the start of the story are to be used to stone the person whose name is selected, as tradition dictates.
The way the villagers act is actually unsettling considering what they are about to do. The reader may begin to question why and how traditions like this may exist that bring upon suffering and even death, and why and how is it allowed. A modern day fictional story that is perhaps, more relatable in the present is Suzanne Collins’ “The Hunger Games. ” This tale by Collins has the same situation where a tradition is annually held to celebrate a historical event. It has a game where children whose names are drawn from a lottery fight against each other for survival, which includes killing one another until only one survives.
Jackson’s short story is similar to Collins’, yet it does not have something that makes Collins’ story a little more understanding to readers; a reason for and a history of the tradition. Jackson does not do this; there is no understanding available to the reader as to how or why this tradition is necessary. In Collins’ books, she explains the history of the tradition and why it is seen as necessary; to suppress any further uprisings from people of the other districts.
Maybe Jackson did not feel the need to explain the history or why the tradition began, but she does present the oldest character in the book, Old Man Warner, making the statement that, “There’s always been a lottery” (Jackson, 2007). Later in the story, it’s mentioned that other villages quit the tradition and Old Man Warner said, “Nothing but trouble in that. ” So it’s possible that while there are those who saw that the tradition as no longer valid, whereas the characters in this particular story have not made such a decision yet. Although they clearly no longer remember or can justify the existence of “The Lottery.
” Jackson may have used Old Man Warner’s character to represent the older generations that have a hard time adapting to changes. When the thought of quitting the tradition was mentioned by Mr. Adams, Old Man Warner’s response was, “Pack of crazy fools. Listening to the young folks, nothing’s good enough for them. Next thing you know, they’ll want to go back to living in caves, nobody work anymore, live that way for a while. Used to be a saying about ‘Lottery in June, Corn be heavy soon. ’ First thing you know, we’d all be eating stewed chickweed and acorns.
There’s always been a lottery. Bad enough to see young Joe Summers up there joking with everyone” (Jackson, 2007). Old Man Warner illustrates how the older generation can sometimes be reluctant to change. The younger generations often are the ones who initiate change, which is frowned upon by the more traditional folks. What is interesting in the story is the way Jackson made Old Man Warner say of the young, “next thing you know, they’ll be waiting to go back to living in caves. ” Is it, possible that Jackson thinks that the older generation’s reluctance to some changes initiated by the younger generation is because the older generations take traditions as something that is an element of moving forward?
Old Man Warner is sure that the “foolery” of the younger generation will bring back the old and harsher ways of living, that the tradition is a way of breaking away from them. In the story, the fact that the present or young generation is full of ideas and defiance is not lost in the story. First, the mention that some villages quit the tradtion and some are considering quitting it happens at the time of the present or young generation.
The act of defiance is shown by the way Joe Summers was joking with everyone, which Old Man Warner deeply disapproved of, and the way Mrs. Hutchinson protested against the conduct of the drawing are examples of the way the present or younger generation go against traditions. Joe Summers’ joking around can be said to be a representation of how younger generations may not always treat traditions with the same reverance that the elders do. Mrs. Hutchinson’s protest is an example of the start of defiance from the people oppressed by such traditions. Interesting enough, Mrs.
Hutchinson also belongs to one of the more marginalized sectors of society, as women, just as much as she also belongs to the younger or present generation. She has the audacity to protest against the way the lottery was conducted even when she was already being stoned. The obvious description of the patriarchy which was dominant in the 1940’s give the reader an understanding of how deeply traditional the society setup is in the story. From the beginning, Jackson painted this picture by having the boys gather stones while the girls stood idly by.
It was also the men who drew for the lottery. When Mrs. Dunbar was allowed to fill in for her husband, Mr. Summers protested by asking, “Don’t you have a grown boy to do it for you, Janey? ” (Jackson, 2007). Jackson did narrate that the whole village knew the answer but politely waited for Mrs. Dunbar’s response, the fact that the question was even asked is common in a male dominate society where men are expected to represent their families and not the other way around. After Mrs. Dunbar pulled, she asked her son to go tell Mr. Dunbar, the results.
What the woman, the wife, the mother has is only the power to pull from the box but the results have to be immediately conveyed to her husband. What really makes the story very disturbing is the fact that the children are very naive about the situation. They give witness and participate in a tradition that is harsh and violent. A society is expected to protect the innocence of children, but sometimes they are shown violent practices that are demanded by tradition. As an example, the highly controversial female genital mutilation, which is a tradition that even young girls are not saved from.
In fact, the age among countries who participate in female genital mutilation can vary from as young as nine years old in Kenya to 16 years old in Kamba (UNICEF, 2013). In Jackson’s short story it is brought to the readers attention how the children are expected to participate in “The Lottery. ”, instead of taking advantage of a beautiful summer day. The children were expected to gather stones and assemble in order to participate in the violence that was a tradition in their village; even looking forward to it.
While they go to school like most children, the stoning tradition has become part of their summers. While schools are suppose to help young minds into becoming good citizens of society, the participation of the children in such a violent manner is considered normal in that setting. The story ends with the loud protest from Mrs. Hutchinson, “It isn’t fair, it isn’t right. ” She questioned the fairness and appropriateness of the tradition, even though only after she was selected, but her protests, did not stop her fellow villagers from stoning her.
In the end the tradition won. It was an ending that was open-ended. Maybe it was Jackson’s way of leaving it to the present and younger generation to address. She presented the idea: There are existing traditions that are questionable and oppressive, what will the younger generation do about it? She also left something for those that seek to end oppressive and questionable traditions; the society will come for you the way the villagers came for Mrs. Hutchins despite her pleas. There is truth in this picture painted by Jackson.
The road to protesting tradition and changing a long-standing practice may be met with disapproval. History is filled with examples of how people protesting traditions and calling for change were ignored and criticized for a long time before they were successful in accomplishing their goals. Some of such protested practices would include slavery, women’s suffrage, civil rights, and so many others. Maybe another lesson to be gained from the open-ended way Jackson ended her story is that there is strength in numbers. In the story, it was Mrs. Hutchinson alone that expressly voiced her protests.
What if the other women or just the girls joined in on her protest? If there were one, two or maybe more that joined her, the stoning may not have occurred. Sadly, no other voice joined hers, she was alone and everyone else chose to go along with the tradition. There is a lot to be learned from Jackson’s story, if one takes a deeper look at the story. What should not be lost is the possibility that the story is a call for young readers to take a critical look at traditions that are being practiced. Is there a need to review the necessity of traditional practices? Is there a need to break way from social norms? It is upon the younger generation to cause change where there is a need for change and only retain those that are justified by present social needs.