Tradition in Shirley Jackson's The Lottery
Shirley Jackson?s insights and observations about society are reflected in her shocking and disturbing short story The Lottery. Jackson reveals two general attitudes in this story: first is the shocking tendency for societies to select a scapegoat and second is the idea that communities are victims of social tradition and rituals.
Anyone with knowledge of current events must be aware of times when society has seized upon a scapegoat as means of resolution. Countless politicians, military leaders, corporate executives and school administrators frequently use this proven technique. The people of the small village were very similar to the leaders of our society. The village people believed that someone had to be sacrificed to insure a good crop. "Lottery in June, corn be heavy soon", said Old Man Warner. It is scary to realize the similarities in the reasoning of the villagers and the reasoning employed today. The villagers are aware that the sacrifice is inhumane but none want to stand and voice their opinion, for fear of going against society?s standards and being outcast or being stoned. "It?s not the way it used to be," Old Man Warner said clearly. "People ain?t the way they used to be." The population fears that if they go against society they might be chosen as the lottery winner OR disrupt their corn season. "Some places have already quit lotteries," Mrs. Adams said. "Nothing but trouble in that," Old Man Warner said stoutly. "Pack of young fools."
By stoning Tessie, the villagers treat her as a scapegoat onto which they can project and repress their own temptations to rebel. The only person who shows their rebellious attitude is Tessie. She does not appear to take the ritual seriously, as she comes rushing to the square because she "clean forgot what day it was".
The villagers are aware of her rebellious attitude and they are weary that she may be a possible cause for their crops not to be plentiful. "It isn?t fair, it isn?t right," Mrs. Hutchinson screamed, and then they were upon her.
One can understand how traditions are easily lost through the handing down of information, beliefs, and customs by word of mouth or by example from one generation to another. Traditions that lose their meaning due to human forgetfulness can cause dreadful consequences to occur....