How are the conflicts that Juliet faces in Romeo and Juliet similar to those Tessie faces in "The Lottery"?

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litteacher8 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The main similarity between the conflicts in Romeo and Juliet and “The Lottery” is that both revolve around sticking to tradition even at the expense of people’s lives.

Although at first there seems to be very little similarity between Romeo and Juliet and “The Lottery,” what the two have in common is societies that staunchly stuck to tradition despite common sense, and the value of human life.  In each case, young people died in the name of tradition.

In Romeo and Juliet, two families are feuding for reasons that no one seems to know or care about.  The reasons are lost to the surviving members, at least.  Juliet does not care.  All she knows is that she loves Romeo, and she wants to be able to choose who she marries.  Not only can she not choose Romeo, she cannot choose at all.  Her father chooses for her, because tradition and the law say so.

Hang thee, young baggage! disobedient wretch!

I tell thee what—get thee to church a Thursday(165)

Or never after look me in the face. (Act 3, Scene 5)

Juliet is at her father’s mercy, and at the mercy of a society that puts tradition above lives.  It is more important to her family and the Montague family to fight each other than anything else.  This is why Tybalt insists on fighting Romeo in the street, and why Romeo ends up killing him to defend himself and avenge Mercutio’s death.  Juliet is once again at the mercy of tradition when her father forces her to marry Paris, even though she has secretly married Romeo.  She can’t marry Romeo publicly because the families are feuding.  Romeo’s banishment also contributes to the problem of Juliet’s marriage to Paris, forcing her to fake her death, which causes Romeo to kill himself.  That’s a lot of conflict caused by stubborn reliance on tradition.

Tessie’s situation is similar.  Her society also clings to a violent and ridiculous tradition—the lottery.  Like the feud, they can’t remember who started it and they don’t know why they do it.  They do it for tradition, and because no one is willing to step up to stop it.  Just as they keep the shabby black box and the three legged stool because they always have, the people of the town keep the lottery because they’ve always done it, even though it’s barbaric. 

As the ritual continues, it’s clear that they continue most of the procedure as they normally have, with some modifications.  Sometimes they have changed things, some things have just been forgotten. Interestingly enough is the comment between Mrs. Adams and Old Man Warner.

"Some places have already quit lotteries." Mrs. Adams said.

"Nothing but trouble in that," Old Man Warner said stoutly. "Pack of young fools."

This conversation goes unnoticed.  Most of the others do not seem to want to be there.  They are uncomfortable.  Tessie is chosen randomly, because that is how lotteries work. In some ways, this is the same as Juliet’s situation.  Romeo and Juliet were also randomly chosen to fall in love—they were at the party at the same time, they saw each other, and they fell in love.

In each case, the girls have a conflict with their society—a character vs. society conflict—that personally affects them and costs them their lives.  However, they themselves did nothing to cause it.  They simply were on the wrong side of tradition.

Read the study guide:
Romeo and Juliet

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