The Lottery By Shirley Jackson Essay

1711 words - 7 pages

Shirley Jackson, born on December 14, 1916, devotes much of her life to the writing of short stories and novels. Some of these include The Sundial, The Haunting of Hill House, and We Have Always Lived in the Castle. Jackson's stories, inspiring and influential to most, are also controversial to some. Her most controversial story, published in 1948 in The New Yorker, is "The Lottery." The purpose for the writing of the story varies depending upon the reader, but some might say that it "expresses Shirley Jackson's abysmal opinion of her fellow creatures" (Coulthard 228). Whatever the purpose may be, "The Lottery" remains one of the most famous stories to date. Despite the controversy, readers also notice the symbols and underlying themes that are prevalent throughout the story including the role of obedience. The role of obedience is seen through the encounters of the characters including Old Man Warner and Tessie Hutchinson.
The first person that arises and presents the role of obedience is Old Man Warner. Old Man Warner, being the oldest in the small town where the lottery takes place, has survived more lotteries than any other person in his village. As Warner puts it, "seventy-seventh year I been in the lottery. Seventy-seventh time"(Jackson 266). Jackson uses Warner's own perspective on his persistent luck to add drama to the extensive amount of time he has lived. One might say that Warner's luck is coincidental to coincide with the fact that he has the most obedient person and he is practically the only person who does not want to get rid of the lottery. Others, however, might say that it is a direct correlation and that Warner is not being chosen in the lotteries because he is obeying tradition and God is rewarding him for doing so. When Mr. Adams tells Warner that "over in the north village they're talking of giving up the lottery," Warner reprimands with, "pack of crazy fools, listening to the young folks, nothing's good enough for them."(266). Later on, Mrs. Adams explains how "Some places have already quit the lotteries," and Warner quickly discerns that there is "nothing but trouble in that. Pack of young fools"(266). One source says that "Old Man Warner is usually taken to be the most allegorically evil devotee of custom, but he is merely the most honest. He is also the only villager who seems to believe in the supposed original purpose of the sacrifice: ‘Lottery in June, corn be heavy soon,' he intones" (Coulthard 226). Another points out how Old Man Warner "complains that Mr. Summers jokes with everybody"(Griffin 45).
Hypocrisy, too, is fairly common, both in the story and in society. Hypocrisy is tied in with the role of obedience in that you are trying to teach someone something right and to obey you, yet you are not being obedient to your own teachings. The first person to emerge into the hypocritical theme is Mr. Adams. Coulthard tells us how "Mr. Adams and his wife mildly oppose the lottery by telling Old...

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