Compare and contrast "The Lottery" with other social or religious rituals.

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The lottery in the story reminds me of child sacrifice rituals in pre-Columbian cultures such as the Incas and Aztecs. Children in these ancient civilizations were regularly sacrificed for a number of reasons, but mainly in order to ensure a bountiful harvest, which is the same rationale behind the lottery.

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The lottery in the story reminds me of child sacrifice rituals in pre-Columbian cultures such as the Incas and Aztecs. Children in these ancient civilizations were regularly sacrificed for a number of reasons, but mainly in order to ensure a bountiful harvest, which is the same rationale behind the lottery.

It's this disturbing parallel between modern civilization and ancient barbarism that makes Jackson's story so effective. On the surface, this pretty little New England village seems like the last place on earth where we'd expect to see such a primitive, superstitious ritual take place. But that just makes the lottery all the more disturbing when it actually happens and this year's sacrificial victim is singled out for a gruesome death.

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Certainly, there were people who lived long ago who believed that human life and the earth depended on one another for survival. In Edith Hamilton's Mythology, she describes the way in which the ancients believed that since we depend on the earth to live—drinking the water, eating the plant and animal life—then the earth could be helped by our blood as well. People might be sacrificed in order that their blood could nourish the earth as it nourishes us. This sounds really similar to the saying to which Old Man Warner refers: "'Lottery in June, corn be heavy soon.'" There seems to be some connection from the lottery and its ritual stoning of a person to a healthy and abundant harvest. That this story takes place in more modern times, when we know better, makes it all the more barbaric.

Further, it is an oddly common social practice to ostracize and condemn others; it's as though, by always finding someone else to pick on, someone else to oust, one keeps oneself safe from similar treatment. This isn't a ritual in the same traditional and codified sense of the word, but it is an extremely common practice that seems to be tacitly understood by many communities.

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The most obvious comparison would be to sacrifices made in the Old Testament of the bible.  Animal and human sacrifices were routine during these times and were performed in order to be good omens for harvests, in accordance with what God told some prophets, etc. The sacrifice that the town made in "The Lottery" was supposedly for a good corn harvest.  The saying that Old Man Warner noted in this story was, "Lottery in June, corn be heavy soon." 

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