Shirley Jackson was a devoted mother and writer. Jackson didn’t fit in well in North Bennington, and the town likely served as the setting for the New England town portrayed in “The Lottery. ” “The Lottery” caused outrage and controversy when it appeared in the New Yorker in 1948, but many critics now consider it to be Jackson’s most famous work. Jackson was sometimes thought to be a witch because of her interested in witchcraft and black magic. Almost all of Jackson’s work is reflects horror, hauntings, witchcraft, or psychological unease. She also struggled with both mental and physical illnesses as an adult.
Unlike other writers, she found the writing process pleasurable. “The Lottery” starts off in a town on a normal day with children going around and collecting rocks. The men of the households are called forward to a wooden box to draw slips of paper. When one of the men sees that he has the black dot on his slip, his wife immediately starts to argue with how the drawing wasn’t fair. The family is brought to the stage where they are to draw their slips of paper. Tess (Mrs. Hutchinson) draws the paper with the black dot and is taken to the center of the town where the town’s people take their stones that the children collected earlier that day.
As the villagers close in to primarily take Tess’s life, all you can hear are her terrified shrilling screams. Shirley Jackson in her work “The Lottery” reveals the corrosive factors that result in our blind acceptance of morally questionable traditions that cause social paralysis. “The Lottery” starts off as a normal day in the village “it was clear and sunny with the fresh warmth of a full-summer day” (Jackson 1). This is ironic because it starts off with this allusion of an enjoyable day but really by the end they end up killing one of their own villagers.
Jackson does this to create a less serious atmosphere and reflect the attitudes of the community. Instantly, the boys are collecting rocks used to kill the lottery winner at the end of the story. This is an annual thing that the kids do because they have been raised and taught to do so. Because the kids are gradually and systematically exposed to these series of provoking objects and situations, they have become familiar with their actions making it an annual “game” for the kids (Linz 1). It has become a “game” for the kids because in the story it states that, “they gather together quietly for
a while before they broke out into boisterous play” and that they “find the smoothest and roundest rocks to stuff in their pockets. ” Because the kids are repeatedly exposed to this violence it diminishes the negative affect that was once upon them. They can no longer see it as wrong or feel remorse. They blindly accept this task thats given to them every year and don’t question it. The constant exposure to violence results in less physiological reactivity to other violent actions going on around them (Linz 1). The killing of the villagers is the violence going on.
Collecting stones has become a ritual that they believe is right, because it is what they have been raised to do, even though it is wrong. They are just kids and haven’t been taught that it is morally wrong to be killing friends and family. An example is at the end of the story when Mrs. Hutchinson’s son was handed a few pebbles to throw at his own mother and didn’t hesitate. When they are repeatedly exposed to violence they are less depressed and enjoy the material more with constant subjection (Linz 2). “Both beamed and laughed (Jackson 6).
” This shows how they still find joy in the situation even though they are about to kill a member of their family. The story goes on to talk about the families that are attending this so called lottery. The women are described as “housewives that gossip” (Jackson 1) and aren’t as authoritative as the men. While the boys are all collecting the stones, the women are “standing aside talking among themselves. ” In the story “the women began to call their children, and the children came reluctantly, having called four or five times. ” When their father calls to them “they came quickly” (Jackson 1).
It is as if their mothers hadn’t even said anything. This shows how the men are portrayed as the head of the house and they women more as just the “housekeeper. ” Their voices are not heard in this part of the story and neither at the end when Mrs. Hutchinson claims that, “It wasn’t fair” and no one does anything about it but continues with the rest of the lottery. Women have been known to rarely work outside the house and live their lives caring for their husbands and children while taking care of their home. Most males are prevailed as the dominant gender. The women are seen on a lower status (Gender Prejudice 1).
The lottery seems to be run mostly by the men of the town. They are the ones that are in charge of the black box and most of the ceremony. In the story the women are more resistant to the lottery while the men are the ones in control of it. This results in social paralysis of the town because no one wants to change how the lottery is run or who it’s run by. When its time for the drawing, Mr. Dunbar is unable to draw so because he and his wife don’t have kids the “Wife draws for the husband” (Jackson 3). This all goes back to the role of the men and women in the village.
The women are to produce many children so that it gives their family a better chance of surviving if their spouse is chosen in the first round (Oehlschlaeger 1). Men are the ones that go out and prevail in the business world while their wives stay home all day. When Mrs. Hutchinson arrives late she makes the statement that she “Thought my old man was out back stacking wood” and that she “Wouldn’t have me leave m’dishes in the sink (Jackson 2),” implying that her husband was doing the hard labor out in the yard while she was inside doing dishes. They mention that most of the ritual has been forgotten over the years.
“The original paraphernalia for the lottery had been lost long ago (Jackson 1). It has become a habit that no one wants to stop. The lottery has become a social paralysis over time, not allowing anyone to step up and want to change or stop what the lottery is doing to their village. No one questions why they still do it and no one even really knows why they do it in the first place. It has lost its significance over the years and become a yearly act that no one has tried to stop. They don’t want to make a new box because “No one wanted to upset even as much tradition as was represented by the black box (Jackson 1).
Tradition is a belief that has been passes down from generations, just like in “The Lottery. ” Traditions are passes on to gain that sense of continuity and bonding through each other. They are supposed to create that special connection between the families and in this case the town. That’s not what it does though, No one knows the significants of the lottery anymore and no one questions either. Old Man Warner says, “Pack of crazy fools” to the people that want to give up the lottery. They think that breaking this time-honored tradition would result in them “living in caves” (Jackson 4).
Traditions carry a sense of social and cultural patterns (Tradition 1), such as drawing the paper from the box and having the men draw first then the family. Even though “So much of the ritual had been forgotten or discarded (Jackson 2),” they still keep that cultural sense to it. The reverence regularly provided in tradition indicates that people follow it willingly even if they don’t know why. “The people had done it so many times that they only half listened to the directions. ” People follow tradition unconsciously because it’s what they are taught to do.
This is their blind acceptance of the lottery and social paralysis of not wanting to change what they have continued to do for numerous years. Traditions are invoked to preserve the sanctity of the past family rituals. Societies keep traditions for social connectedness and memories (Tradition 3). Throughout the story, “The Lottery,” Shirley Jackson uses harsh examples of how the village blindly accepts their morally questionable traditions resulting in social paralysis. They don’t want to change anything about the lottery even though most of the significance has been lost over the years.
There is evidence throughout the story that shows how the people blindly accept what they are doing to their town and do it without question. This all demonstrates how society never changes or grows resulting in the social paralysis of the story. Their is social paralysis going on all around the world. Even in Pakistan there are people refusing to act upon the issue of suicide happening at large rates ( Poverty and Social Paralysis. ) The lottery is just an example of how some societies refuse to change even though what they are doing needs to or should be stopped.