Do you think that the lottery is a tradition of human sacrifice in order to insure a bountiful harvest?I am teaching this story in Summer School and I have been thinking about it and re-reading...

Do you think that the lottery is a tradition of human sacrifice in order to insure a bountiful harvest?

I am teaching this story in Summer School and I have been thinking about it and re-reading it.  I would welcome your input and insight into this question. 

What puzzles me is the cooperative nature of the town to such a hideous activity.  What is their collective motivation?  Is it superstition?  Or is Jackson suggesting that tradition can be so deeply ingrained in a community that they just follow, without question.

Are there no outside influences in this world that the author has created?  What keeps the lottery in place?  Why is it kept? Who really benefits from it? 

Expert Answers
kwoo1213 eNotes educator| Certified Educator


The townspeople have accepted this ritual as a part of their lives.  It has been a tradition for a very long time and yes, I believe that the town keeps it because it has been so deeply ingrained in the community.   However, there are signs that people want to get rid of it, as indicated by the mention that neighboring towns are abandoning it.  I think the older members of the town keep it based on how they believe that it helps them have a good corn harvest. 

The community apparently has very little outside influence, although, again, the town has heard through rumors that neighboring towns are attempting to get rid of the lottery.  The main reasons it is kept are due to tradition and because it is believed to help their crops flourish.  In reality, no one benefits from it.  It is simply a horribly cruel, senseless act.

Shirley Jackson, the author, said that the main reason she wrote "The Lottery" is because she wanted to point out the inhumanity in our world and how violence has become so common that people aren't shocked by it anymore (Kennedy and Gioia).

amy-lepore eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Jackson's loudest theme is that of tradition for tradition's sake.  Only a few speak up, but they don't bother to follow through with the objections.  Even the victim's son is oblivious as he casts the first stone to kill his mother. 

The tradition is so set in the town's existence that they all just go through the motions.  There are mentionings of other towns that have stopped the lottery, but no one dwells too long on any of this.  The oldest member of the community is wholeheartedly for it...change is bad.  The lottery brings good harvest and good fortune.  It's just the way we've always done things.   These attitudes are being viciously attacked by Jackson, and the violence she uses is set against this seemingly unthreatening setting of the quaint and charming town.  The fact that a small boy--the son of the victim--throws the first stone makes the act even more shocking to the reader. 

accessteacher eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I agree with other editors in identifying Jackson's main point in her excellent short story. She seems to be trying to make us wake up to how in our society we can all be complicit and involved in hideous and criminal acts of violence and this can be considered or accepted as "justifiable" because of things like tradition. You need only consider some rituals such as female circumcision in Africa or the stoning of adulterous women in Saudi Arabia to understand her point. We all have these elaborate belief structures in place that, at times, are used to condone acts of violence.

jeff-hauge eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I think the most powerful motivation evident is a group's desire to create a scapegoat. Finding an internal flaw and removing it, even if randomly, moves a groupd towards a more perfect sense of their collective identity. Jackson was amazing at presenting characters who only made individualistic stands when it benifited them. Then when a threat passed them by, they slunk back into the group and picked up stones.

ask996 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

What keeps the town's people motivated is that none of the surviving individuals has had the misfortune of drawing the black dot. Even Tessie Hutchinson didn't object until she drew it. Surprisingly or (not so) many individuals don't have the fortitude to step up and speak out against atrocities unless they are directly affected.

perezj | Student

 I need to write a literay analysis and I don't know how to start

could you help me out? explain what a work of literature means


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The Lottery

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