While we want to believe that the children and young people in "The Lottery" by Shirley Jackson were forced to participate in the lottery and even the stoning, the truth is that the lottery has become such an acceptable part of this town that they do not see their inclusion in the lottery as anything but normal.
Certainly we would call this child abuse, and we would be no happier about the adults being forced to participate in this lottery than we are about the children. In this society, ironically, there is no specific intention to harm children. The lottery is an equal-opportunity process, so the intent is simply to narrow the entire community down to one "winner."
We so no evidence that anyone is afraid before the lottery begins.
Bobby Martin had already stuffed his pockets full of stones, and the other boys soon followed his example, selecting the smoothest and roundest stones; Bobby and Harry Jones and Dickie Delacroix--the villagers pronounced this name "Dellacroy"--eventually made a great pile of stones in one corner of the square and guarded it against the raids of the other boys.
There is nervousness, of course, but there is no evidence that there is actual fear before the lottery,
During the actual event, we see one nervous young man:
A tall boy in the crowd raised his hand. "Here," he said. "I'm drawing for my mother and me." He blinked
his eyes nervously and ducked his head as several voices in the crowd said things like "Good fellow,
lack." and "Glad to see your mother's got a man to do it."
When Davy, Tessie's youngest boy, has to draw, however, he is clearly not afraid, though he is certainly old enough to have attended the lottery before now.
Mr. Graves took the hand of the little boy, who came willingly with him up to the box. "Take a paper out of the box, Davy." Mr. Summers said. Davy put his hand into the box and laughed. "Take just one paper." Mr. Summers said. "Harry, you hold it for him." Mr. Graves took the child's hand and removed the folded paper from the tight fist and held it while little Dave stood next to him and looked up at him wonderingly.
There is no obvious and real fear until the very end, and that fear is understandable. No one forces the children to act; they do so because that is what everyone they know does. The same is true of the actual stoning. When Tessie Hutchinson is identified as the target of the stoning, someone slips some pebbles into Davy's hand, and he takes them willingly. Not with joy, of course, but perfectly willingly.
Despite all of this, no child should have had to participate in this barbaric and pointless ritual; however, the same is true of the adults. In other words, the point is not that just the children were treated unfairly and outrageously--everyone was treated that way. I'm sure you would not make the case that it was fine for the adults to have to participate in the lottery, so of course it is not right for the children, either. Any outrage should be because of the lottery in general, not just that the kids had to participate. If we are only upset about the children, we are also in the wrong here. A human life is valuable, and a child is no more valuable than any other person's life.
It is the lottery that is not right or fair or moral, not the fact that children are expected to participate.