The Significance Of Tradition In Shirley Jackson's The Lottery

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Shirley Jackson’s “The Lottery” is a short story that speaks about an old tradition that a small community takes part in every year. The story follows what goes on during the random selection and the reaction of the townspeople throughout the process. One resident in particular, Tessie Hutchinson arrives late to the lottery, and is about to miss it but in a surprising twist of fate, gets assigned as the “winner”. This causes her to suddenly reject the notion of the lottery and call it unfair as the townsfolk, including her own family members, begin stoning her to death, finally revealing the true nature of the lottery. In this case, the lottery signifies the unquestioned, irrelevant traditions that some humans have grown accustomed to, even if there are better alternatives.
One example on as to how the lottery signifies unquestioned traditions would be the townspeople’s unwillingness to change it. Like many traditions, its participants scoff at the mention of modification, with Old Man Warner being prime example of this, stating that there is no need to change anything since “there’s always been a lottery” (4). In a sense, Old Man Warner represents the resistance to revision and the sheep like following that
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For instance, when the town began stoning Tessie, Mrs. Delacroix “selected a stone so large she had to pick it up with both hands” (8), indicating that she actively participated in the stoning. What makes the case even more chilling is the fact that Mrs. Delacroix was one of the people that made small talk with Tessie when she first arrived, telling her “you’re just in time” (2) when she arrived late but one of the first to stone her once she was chosen. Mrs. Delacroix, as with all the other women, didn’t object to the process and all played their part equally as much as the men when it came to killing