Do you think it was right for the youth in this story to have been forced to participate in the event?

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

To a great extent, I think that this becomes one of the central themes of the story.  The idea of violence and cruelty being learned behaviors, passed down like tradition from old to young, is part of what Jackson is questioning.  Certainly, the youth who are participating in the event are victim- perpetrators.  They are born into this and have been taught that such behavior is socially acceptable.  For Jackson, this is one of the critical issues that defines the relevance of the short story.  At some level, Jackson is demanding that society engage in self- reflection and introspective analysis that questions what is in the light of what should be.  Jackson suggests that this self- reflective element is not as present in the society of "the lottery," and to this end, part of that society's failure is this absence.  Children can only demonstrate that which is modeled or that which is taught to them.  If children are taught that such behavior is wrong, there is a greater chance that something can be activated to break the cycle of victim- perpetrator.  Yet, Jackson's point is that the youth are not taught that there is a cycle to be broken. Rather, they are simply told that what is is what is and there should not be any form of questioning.  In this, Jackson's story speaks to the idea that there is a need for social reflection in order to appeal to the better aspects of social and individual nature.

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William Delaney | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

The whole lottery system is wrong. This is a work of fiction. It isn't really happening. Shirley Jackson naturally includes children and young people in the event because that makes it seem more terrible. These young characters can't understand that what they are doing is obscene. They represent the future. They will carry on the tradition of the lottery and teach their own children to participate and carry it on into the more distant future. If the older people believe in the lottery, it is only natural that they should encourage their children to participate in it. No doubt this sort of thing actually happened in biblical times when people were stoned to death. The boys at least must have enjoyed such events. Public executions by hanging, beheading, and drawing-and-quartering used to be popular events. Lots of children were executed for a whole spectrum of crimes. To argue that it is wrong to include young people in the lottery seems tantamount to saying that for older people it is right.

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