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The Lottery by Shirley Jackson: An Exposition of Conformity in Society

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Autor:   •  November 15, 2010  •  Essay  •  901 Words (4 Pages)  •  956 Views

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Shirley Jackson's The Lottery:

An Exposition of Conformity in Society

The Lottery, a short story by the nonconformist author Shirley Jackson, represents communities, America, the world, and conformist society as a whole by using setting and most importantly symbolism with her inventive, cryptic writing style. It was written in 1948, roughly three years after the liberation of a World War II concentration camp Auschwitz. Even today, some people deny that the Holocaust ever happened. Jackson shows through the setting of the story, a small, close knit town, that even though a population can ignore evil, it is still prevalent in society (for example: the Harlem Riots; the terrorist attacks on September 11; the beating of Rodney King.) In The Lottery, year after year, even since Old Man Warner, the oldest man in town, was a child, the same ritual has gone on. It is as if the community never learns from its previous mistakes. As long as no one in the town speaks up about such a twisted yearly event, nothing is ever going to change. If Martin Luther King or Malcolm X wouldn't have raised their voices against the prejudice that they had experienced their entire lives, we might still be living in a segregated world, which was once thought to be "okay." This is similar to The Lottery, in which the townspeople are brainwashed into believing that this ritual is normal. For example, Old Man Warner is outraged when he hears that the north village might give up the lottery, calling them "a pack of crazy fools." Even little Davie Hutchinson participates in the stoning of his own mother, unaware that something can be done to change the way things are. Jackson is showing how a person would rather sacrifice their own family than speak up to or question authority. Rosa Park is a hero to the African American Community. She is the only black woman out of millions who had been sitting on the back of a bus for years, and actually had the guts to challenge so-called authority. The setting of the small town is the easiest way to represent society's unwillingness to change and the stupidity of people, as a whole, refusing to question something that has been going on since Day One.

The town square is where the citizens of the village meet every June 27 before noon dinner to conduct the lottery. This place, the assumed center of town, the most important part of the village, is set between the Bank and the Post Office. The Post Office symbolizes government and the Bank represents money. This leads the in-depth reader to question today's society: are government and money at the center of a person's life? Are these two of the most important reasons people refuse to change?

By using the last name "Delacroix" (French for "of the cross"), Jackson symbolizes religion as well. The youngest Delacroix, Dickie, made a huge pile of stones in the corner just before the lottery began. Jackson is trying to slyly show the reader that religion is hypocritical and for the conformist. How many Christians (people of God, the "Father") only attend mass on Christmas and Easter, to attend weddings and funerals? When these so-called


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