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"The Lottery” by Shirley Jackson is a fascinating short story fraught with several instances of irony and suspense (Brooks, Cleanth 8). It is widely renowned for exploring various instances of absurdities and incongruities in daily life. This story also highlights the fact that human beings can engage in evil within a familiar and contemporary American setting. Indeed, that the climate, the physical environment and the characters in the story signify the numerous adversities and ill treatments present in community today. Most critics may say that this story illustrates and underlines the danger of behavior that humans have adopted from generations hence a ritual, a dark side of human nature and cruelty of mass actions. The setting is a nondescript, small town with a population of nearly three hundred persons (Cleveland, Carol 204). On a vibrant morning, June 27, the inhabitants, beginning with the children, instigate to gather for the lottery that is set to start at 10 AM. They intend to conclude the meeting before lunch. Dickie Delacroix, Bobby Martin, Harry Jones, and the other boys are pocketing stones while the girls are chatting on one side. In a short while, the people start to gather with families standing together.
Mr. Summer, whose wife is unfriendly and has no children, is the conductor of the lottery (Brooks, Cleanth 13). He is the one responsible for placing the black old box in conjunction with his assistant Mr. Graves. It is ironical that the box that they use in the lottery is even older than the oldest man in town, old man Warner. Originally, they could stir chips of wood in the box but because of changing times and increased population, they now use slips of paper. They have to make a number of lists every time before starting the lottery. This comprises members of every family, heads of all the families and heads of family circle. Efficiently and with a lot, of passion, Mr. Summer prepares this and the lottery commences. Mrs. Tess Hutchison, who stands next to her children and husband, arrived just in time to join her family before the lottery starts though she almost arrived late. This is followed with Mr. Summer accounting for those who are not in the meeting.
Each family name is then called considering the alphabetical order as they step forward to pick a slip of paper. Mr. Adams remarks to the old man Warner that there is a town nearby that is intending to give up the practice (Cleveland, Carol 216). This mention upsets the old man and he says that they are “pack of young fools” (pg. 216). Bill Hutchinson family is singled out after he picked the special slip. Mrs. Tess Hutchinson complains that Mr. Summer did not give her husband enough time when picking the slip. The box is then re-arranged to hold only the five slips for this family. The family selects and Tess holds the retched paper with a black dot. It is now time for stoning and Mrs. Delacroix selects a very large stone that she cannot even carry comfortably. Despite Tess Hutchinson’s objections, everyone stones her including her children and husband. She is stoned to death.
Tessie Hutchinson stands out immediately she arrives late claiming that she had forgotten the function of the day (Heilman, Robert B 302). This presents her as someone threatening or different from the others. Considering the arrival style, Tess arrived hurriedly , out of breath and flustered while the other women arrived early enough and calmly, chatting among themselves then humbly stand next to their husbands. In fact, the family gets some criticism from the crowd on how Tess conducts herself since they had to give her way and wait until she stands with her family before commencing (Heilman, Robert B 87). On this day, every member of the community is expected to think only of the lottery in addition to keeping time when arriving and this act by Tess is practically unforgivable. Jackson still marks Tess negatively even after she settled in the lottery. He brands her as a free spirit; she is capable of forgetting about the lottery as she goes ahead with her daily duties. The only persons who are allowed not to attend the lottery are those with broken legs.
Tess still stands out when she is the only person complaining about the lottery (Hyman 14). She openly states her point that the process has not been fair because her husband was not given enough time to select a slip of paper. She continues complaining when she is further selected and consequently stoned to death. No one listens to her and Bill goes ahead to shut her up. It remains a mystery if she would protest if another family would be victimized.
Tess displays human weakness and hypocrisy (Hyman 39). First, she arrives late hence shows less or no concern for the lottery. In addition to this, she was present when the lottery began and she even picked the paper calmly only to protest when her family is endangered."You didn't give him time enough to take any paper he wanted. I saw you. It wasn't fair!"(pg284). She allowed the lottery to go on even though she knew the direction or the product of the practice (Heilman, Robert 91). She only becomes concerned when her family is spotted. This is ironic since she shows no sign of believing that the lottery is unfair as she rushes in late. Nonetheless, the reader can easily see how unfair the lottery has been all along but Tess does not convince that she believed the lottery is unfair. Perhaps the writer tries to highlight that the hypocritical ones will always be more targeted.
The reader can see that this unthinkable, unjust, unfair and despicable practice is only inherited from generation to generation. Having it that the people stoned are selected at random, there is no justification (Hyman 97). It is more ridiculous and upsetting that human can set themselves in dehumanizing and belittling acts in the name of superstition. The story also emphasizes how the enlightened people are petty, murderous and irrational since they are very negative towards one another in frequent occurrences.
In conclusion, the society today is reflective of the dynamics that are evident in the lottery in many ways. People are always pulled towards gossips be it an accident, a fight or discussing other peoples businesses. People talk about others engagement in adultery until they are caught, people go on stereotyping about others until it is their turn and they fill the pinch. Shirley Jackson condemns these behaviors even without voicing them directly. “The lottery”, in horror and disapproval demonstrated Jackson’s concepts. In a way that is valid and unintentionally she presents the people as not different from the short story’s villagers.