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What characteristics of human nature does Shirley Jackson's "The Lottery" reveal?

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lillyflower35 | Student, Undergraduate | eNotes Newbie

Posted February 10, 2009 at 8:58 AM via web

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What characteristics of human nature does Shirley Jackson's "The Lottery" reveal?

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pippin1313 | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Adjunct Educator

Posted February 10, 2009 at 9:31 AM (Answer #1)

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Jackson reveals a number of interesting characteristics of human nature.

One of the main ones is the need to follow the crowd and fit in. This is done through the villagers' need to ensure that the lottery is carried out despite the cruel and violent nature of it.

This leads onto another characteristic which is humans' inherent violence. The realist political theory argues that humans are inherently selfish and violent; Jackson's story seems to back this up. The mob are unswerving in their attack on Mrs Hutchinson: "...and then they were upon her." They relish their role in the stoning of one of their own which is possibly the most disturbing aspect of "The Lottery".

At times throughout the story, it is almost as if by victimising another, the villagers are ensuring they are not victims themselves. The kind of groupthink that evolves throughout the story is a major human trait. We do not want to stand out; we do not want to think for ourselves if it means that we might be victimised instead.

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asagay124 | Student, Grade 10 | eNotes Newbie

Posted October 5, 2011 at 12:25 PM (Answer #2)

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The lottery tell a lot about human nature. For one it tells us that humans are followers. We stick to traditions and we do what we are told even when it has horrible consequences. In the story the villagers are willing to kill their friends, families and neighbors without asking questions because of the lottery. It also tell us that we need traditions by nature.Even when a certain tradition is stupid and has no benefits of any sort we till go along with it just becaue. Also it proves that humans are willing to turn their heads and look the other way when something doesn't affect them. 

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