conformity kills Essay

Submitted By rachelfancher
Words: 1077
Pages: 5

Conformity Kills There are two major themes of The Lottery by Shirley Jackson. These include the dangers of thoughtlessly following traditions, the unjust and inhumanity of violent persecutions. This story intrigued me not only for its message, but because of the author’s background. Jackson suffered from severe depression, and struggled with it throughout her life, this may have had some relevance as to why she wrote this story. Her unique and twisted foreshadowing tone shows the reader a glimpse of the darkness she must have often felt. The first major theme is that of following traditions with no thought, in the story, villagers blindly follow the tradition of “the lottery”. One villager is chosen at random to be stoned to death by the other villagers. This select townsman is chosen by selecting papers from the sacred black box, the person with the black dot on the paper is “the winner”, or the chosen one to be sacrificed this year. There is no mention of what purpose this tradition serves or how it has come to be, it just is. Rituals of random sacrifice have gone on in different cultures throughout history, such as the Aztecs, who believed that their bloodthirsty gods could only be appeased with human sacrifices. However this is not entirely different from our culture today because it is true that, “all societies have customs and rituals that their citizens take for granted” (Kennedy). Consider what we do for our holidays here in America, for example on Halloween we dress up in any imaginary character and go door to door asking for candy. Where do our traditions come from, and why do we follow them without question? Christmas, the day that is supposed to be a celebration of Jesus Christ’s birth, we cut down a tree to put in our house, decorate it, and give each other gifts. We tell our children to believe in imaginary characters, such as Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny and Tooth Fairy. On Easter, when Jesus has risen from the dead, we color eggs, and hide baskets full of candy. While there may be a connection on why we follow these traditions, there also may not be. I have never found myself questioning these traditions until now, as I’m sure many other people have not. This is because our customs “provide structure, bolster a sense of collective identity, and help reinforce the society’s culture or beliefs”. To ignore our rituals seems illogical, and against whom we are, so we blindly follow them, as do the villagers in the story. Jackson’s message in this is that we need to question our traditions because no one forces us to repeat the past, except ourselves. The other major theme of this story is the inhumanity of random violent persecutions. In the story, the victim is chosen at random, and is not guilty of any transgressions other than being the unfortunate one to choose the wrong paper from the black box. Everyone is viewed as equal, any man, woman, or child is eligible to be the sacrificial scapegoat; no one is safe from being the potential victim. When Tessie is chosen, although she is seemed to be a good and innocent person, this does not matter, because according to the tradition, she must die. Her death shows how innocent people are often times persecuted for absurd reasoning. Just in the history of America, many different groups have been persecuted for absurd reasons, such as race, sex, religion, or sexual orientation. For example, less than a century ago segregation of African Americans was considered the norm, separate schools, bathrooms, restaurants, almost anything you can imagine was purposely separated, because these people were persecuted for something they could not control, their skin color. It may surprise some to know that this is still a problem today, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation; in 2011 there were a total of 2,619 anti-black hate crime victims (Justice). Farther back in our history, Native Americans were mistreated and persecuted in a similar way. And even in our