Shirley Jackson's "The Lottery" as a Representational View of Society Today

The characters of Shirley Jackson’s “The Lottery” let fear and emotions run high. No one is willing to face the problem of blindly following traditions that result in the death of a community member. Today society is no longer blind like this, and so this story is more characteristic of a typical mob scene than the attitudes of today’s society.The characters of Mr. and Mrs. Adams are representative of the progressive members of the community. They show this in the short yet significant conversation with Old Man Warner. Although an opinion is never given, their mentioning of the community in the north talking of “giving up the lottery” and other communities that had abolished the lottery completely is a daring step. Speaking of getting rid of the lottery is not a bold statement in of itself, it was to whom they were speaking that made it even more apparent they were possibly not just making small talk at an uncomfortable time.

Old Man Warner’s reply was typical of a backward-looking member of the community. He thinks that young people with no sense are the only ones who would see sense in abandoning the lottery. He states that eliminating the lottery would mean less food for everyone. He feels that the lottery keeps the town moving forward. His basis for this is based on superstition and is apparent when he says “Lottery in June, corn be heavy soon”. Someone who validates the stoning of individuals with superstition can definitely be labeled as the reactionary of the group.

Mr. Summers is the organizer of more than just the lottery for the community. He also administers “the square dances, the teenage club, and the Halloween program”. He comes across as a stickler for tradition, and so he is the symbolic conservative of the group. Although he mentions on a few occasions that a new box would be ideal, he never pushes it. A new box would be nice, but it is the tradition that is important. In the preparation and execution of the lottery he is thorough and professional. He sees no need for change if he did, he would not devote the time and effort he does to it.

Tesse Hutchinson represents an all too common character in today’s society. She is the hypocrite. Hers is a character who is supportive of the tradition, as long as it is not she herself who dies at the hand of it. Not once does she say that the lottery is a bad thing or irrelevant in today’s world instead, she offers up scapegoat after scapegoat. At one point she even implies that her own daughter would be a better pick than herself. This is a dangerous character that never looks inward at her own faults, only the faults of others.

Individually analyzed, the characters of Shirley Jackson’s “The Lottery” give us insights into the personalities that make up a mob scene. Mob scenes are not the norm today though. Though mobs do happen, they are not representative of the attitude of the general public.

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