5 December 2014
Sticks and Stones Most people believe in superstitions. Some superstitions are positive as in sports when athletes say the same prayer before each game. Other times superstitions are believed to ward off evil, like throwing salt over the shoulder or not walking under a ladder. Oftentimes people follow superstitions so much that they become rituals. This idea is seen in “The Lottery” by Shirley Jackson. Ms. Jackson develops her short story using symbols, such as names, objects, numbers and specific times in the setting to further the idea that superstitions overtime become rituals.
Ms. Jackson uses a network of allegorical symbolism in “The Lottery” to build around a severe commentary of how tradition works in American culture. Tradition both as a means of everyday routine, and also the larger kinds of religious traditions and superstitions that exist in everyday lives. The central tradition in this story is the annually conducted lottery in the town. One of the most important symbolic allegories in which Ms. Jackson uses to develop her theme of superstition and ritual is the symbolic meanings she shrouds behind her characters names. According to critic Jay A. Yarmove in his critical analysis, Yarmove writes: “Not only do time, place and objects bear important clues as to the allegorical meaning of “The Lottery,” but the very names of the characters are laden with significance. The prominent names-Summers, Graves, Warner, Delacroix, and Tessie Hutchinson- have much to tell us” (41). The fact that Mr. Warner is an “old man” shows that the lottery has been around for a long time. His name is symbolic of time. The people used to promote this tradition are Mr. Summers and Mr. Graves. These two men who are in charge of running the lottery, have very obvious meanings behind their names. The name Mr. Summers can be seen as a symbolic representation of the lottery itself as it is annually held every summer. The fact that it is held every summer, and presented by Mr. Summers plays into the traditions and rituals of the story. The name Mr. Graves is an obvious symbol for darkness, evil and death. Since Mr. Graves is the man who holds the box and has the townspeople pull their names from the box, his name is symbolic, in that as much as at least one of them will go to his or her grave. It is a grave situation indeed. In the beginning of the story it is said that the name Delacroix is pronounced incorrectly, “the villagers pronounce this name as Dellacroy” (Jackson. 184.). This name Delacroix is particularly intriguing because the word Delacroix, in the French language actually means “of the cross.” So this name, being that it stands for “of the cross” gives the story an implication of religious fervor or religious belief. The religious symbolism behind this name, illustrates not the normal positivity usually associated with the cross, but gives context to the dark side of religious beliefs, especially given the stories main conflict. The name of the character who is sacrificed and stoned to death in the end, Tessie Hutchinson, as stated by critic Chris Coco, Tessie Hutchinson “calls upon Annie Hutchinson a woman who was a martyred for her beliefs” (Coco. 1.). A less obvious symbolic name in the lottery that was also depicted in critic Chris Coco is the name Bentham, as “Bentham was an English philosopher who argued against slavery and the death penalty” (Coco. 1.). Jackson uniquely chose each of these names carefully to foreshadow and more importantly to better illustrate and give context into the development of her stories theme. As stated in an analysis released in WordPress Magazine:
The names of the characters suggest another meaning aside from its usage as means of identification for a particular villager. It seems that the author built her characters in association with their names to provide a double emphasis on the importance of that character in her story.…