Key Themes & Symbols

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"The Lottery" focuses on the tradition of the lottery not only in this town but how other towns are going against tradition by banishing the lottery. The characters also mention that they did not want to get rid of the old box because it was made of splinters of the original box. The town is so focused on how things were and how things have always been that they can not see any new or improved ways of living. It leads the reader to assume that there are other ways of life that could be greatly improved if the townspeople would only listen to reason and be open to change.




Although the end of the story shows a warped sense of family, the entire story revolves around family, an old-fashioned family. The male head of the household (female if there is no other choice) is the one who draws the ticket. They are the ones who bring their families together when the lottery begins. Bill Hutchinson is pictured as the backbone of his family when he draws the black dot and Tessie was late because she had been washing dishes. At the end of the story, family turns against one member as well as friends turning against each other because of the aforementioned tradition.

"The Lottery" is a story of tradition and the inability to see past it. There are 300 people in this small village. The oldest man in this story is 77 and the tradition dates back before his time so that the village can have a good harvest. Although they do not have the original box, they still keep this tradition going. Even the most organized man in the story, Mr. Summers, was not the one to come to a realization of how tragic this tradition really is. No matter the age, the people in this village will kill the person with the blck dot. Tessie Hutchinson tries to slim her chances of getting picked by stating she has another daughter who is married, but should be there. This goes to show how selfish she is, that she would sacrifice her daughter if it meant saving her own life.

One prominent theme in the lottery is the extreme power of a mob mentality. In short, the people feel that it is okaay to stone people because everybody else is doing it. The entire society in the story is based around these yearly events. In the story, the people are cruel murderers once a year and not only do they not feel guilt about it, they find it necessary. They allow themselves to stone their friends and neighbors based on blind faith, tradition, and a ridiculous rationalization (the promise of a good harvest).

Another incredibly important theme is that of tradition. Jackson's views on tradition are cleaarly negative through this short story. Th villagers allow an outdated tradition to run their lives and control whether they live or die. The black box represents tradition in that it is old and worn. It has been in existence seemingly forever and though there is talk of replacing it, the reader can infer that there will be no such change. These people are afraid of their tradition. Tessie Hutchinson is terrified when she finds out that she and her family will be victim to this tradition and even stoops so low as to demand her married daughter take part in the lottery so that her chances of being chosen will lessen. The villagers obviously don't like the lottery. This is evident in both Tess's desperation to escape it and the man's comment that the lottery was being abolished up north. Because it has been tradition for so long, it is essentially all they know. They are afraid of what will happen if they get rid of it.

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