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The Lottery by Shirley Jackson

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The story, “The Lottery” by Shirley Jackson, describes a small town that carries on the ritualistic tradition of randomly picking a human sacrifice to ensure a good harvest. The villagers accept that murdering someone is simply a lottery and they do not see it as what it is, a pointless murder. Social pressure and how others perceive an individual can be powerful influencers, dictating decisions. In George Orwell’s essay, “Shooting an Elephant”, his perception of what the huge crowd of people expects of him convinces him that he must shoot an innocent elephant. Orwell did not want to shoot, but the influence from members of the crowd on him was so pressurized that it forced him to act the way they expected him to. Social pressure and how others perceive individuals can lead to a society of bystanders scared to stand up for what is morally right.

Doing what is right does not always feel good and is often not popular. As soon as Orwell saw the elephant he knew with “perfect certainty” that he should not shoot him (Orwell 137). However, Orwell was more concerned with the crowd watching him and his main thought was if he did not kill the elephant members of the crowd would laugh at him (Orwell 137). The crowd looked at Orwell as the leader, and they were excited to be a part of something fun and they would also benefit by getting elephant meat. Imagine the pressure of an employee when their boss insists they cut corners to make the job more profitable and all the coworkers know that if that employee does this, everyone will get a big bonus as a benefit. On the one hand, clearly it is wrong to cut corners. However, an employee disobeying a boss is grounds for being fired or demoted. Also, by disappointing your coworkers, they could make it impossible to work together anymore. Even though Orwell believed English Imperialism was evil, he used it as cover to back up that he had done the right thing legally, but Orwell admitted to only shooting the elephant to avoid looking like a fool (Orwell 134, 139).

In The Lottery, the villagers feel powerless to change or even try and change the tradition. “Pack of crazy fools” and “Pack of young fools” is how Old Man Warner described the other village wanting to give up the lottery (Jackson 312). He states this as if discontinuing an antiquated ritual will cause them to live like cavemen. Family relationships play a big role in The Lottery but even family turns on family when they are chosen as the “winner” (Jackson 314). Since this has been a long running tradition standing up for what is morally right would be extremely hard because the elders and possibly other villagers would greatly oppose a change. Overcoming this peer pressure comes with risks of being ostracized or having the pack of villagers, including family turning on the individual instead of the lottery winner. According to Old Man Warner, “there’s always been a lottery”, but unquestioning allegiance to rituals can dominate and shatter cultures (Jackson 312). For example, in Pakistan, arranged marriages remain a strong tradition. However, if a young



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