Data Analysis Chapter: Lottery an Analysis of the Symbol

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¶ … Lottery

An Analysis of the Symbol of Throwing Stones in Jackson's "The Lottery"

Shirley Jackson's "The Lottery" is a short story that focuses on a village's illogical attachment to a semi-sadistic ritual. Yet the ritual may serve to symbolize a deeper depravity in the human condition: the sinful exercise of judging others. Indeed, if one looks to the New Testament, one discovers a striking parallel to Jackson's story in a popular Bible verse: "Let he who is without sin cast the first stone" (John 8:7). Set against a surprise backdrop of stoning, "The Lottery" brings the sinfulness and horror of human nature to the surface of a society which has virtually institutionalized it: all must participate in the lottery -- no one may abstain. Thus, a tale of meaningless, ritualistic stoning becomes the representation of the Christian message inverted: "Let he who is without sin cast the first stone" is eclipsed in favor of a more brutal teaching: all most throw stones at one's neighbor. This paper will analyze the theme of "throwing stones" in Jackson's "The Lottery."

Jackson expresses in a brutally honest and vivid way the complete indifference with which the villagers disregard the divine commandment (as though ignorant of its existence) and literally cast stones in a bizarre act of homicide. In one sense, "The Lottery" can be read as a tale that satirizes and objects to senseless violence. In fact, the use of "tradition" in "The Lottery" is an excuse for unwarranted murder. Good and bad luck are nothing more than superficial pretexts for institutionalized extermination. No rationale is provided for why one must be stoned -- and even though objections are made, the stoning still takes place: "They do say,' Mr. Adams said to Old Man Warner, who stood next to him, 'that over in the north village they're talking of giving up the lottery.' 'Old Man Warner snorted, 'Pack of crazy fools,' he said. 'Listening to the young folks…'" (Jackson 225). The suspicion and contempt that Old Man Warner has for a change of such traditions represents the social establishment's way of thinking -- a way of thinking that refuses to acknowledge change, dissatisfaction, or even reason, and views instead the logic of the "north village" as something new-fangled and foolish -- the idea of "young folks" who Old Man Warner implies could not possibly have better sense than he. In other words, Old Man Warner represents an anti-Christian institution that does not want people to view Mrs. Hutchinson's death as abominable -- but simply as a matter of bad luck, of course, of tradition.

"The Lottery" could also be read as Jackson's own clear-sighted and objective satire of American society: pompous, Pharisaical, holy and virtuous on the outside; dark, sinister, judgmental on the inside. It might be said that in "The Lottery" Jackson perceives that such a condition affects all humanity, and that her short story simply shows in a literal way what many do in… [END OF PREVIEW]

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Lottery an Analysis of the Symbol.  (2012, September 18).  Retrieved December 12, 2019, from https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/lottery-analysis-symbol/8742870

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"Lottery an Analysis of the Symbol."  Essaytown.com.  September 18, 2012.  Accessed December 12, 2019.
https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/lottery-analysis-symbol/8742870.