How does the theme of Shirley Jackson's "The Lottery" apply to people everywhere?

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literaturenerd | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

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Shirley Jackson's short story "The Lottery" contains numerous themes. Throughout the tale of Tessie Hutchinson, thematically, violence/cruelty, custom/tradition, victim/victimization, and sex roles all play a part in the tale. As for the universality (meaning can be understood by all) of any of the themes, the majority of the themes named above could apply to people everywhere.

Violence/cruelty can be seen in virtually every culture on the face of the earth. Even if the culture is not necessarily violent within its own culture, one can be sure that violence has erupted at one time or another in some sort of way (war between cultures, for example).

Another theme which can be identified as universal is the theme of culture and tradition. Essentially, all people on earth recognize their own culture or traditions within their family, community, region, or country. Even if the idea of a culture seems abstract, most families pass down traditions.

Sex roles is another theme which the majority of people can relate to. While some people may live under traditional gender roles, others have decided to fight against stereotypical gender roles. Regardless if they conform or not, the ideology behind gender (sex) roles is universal.

One theme which may not be recognized universally is victimization. Not all people understand the concept of victimization because they have failed to be victimized or their culture does not define certain behaviors as representative of victimization. For example, the villagers have held the lottery for as long as all of them can remember. The "winner," for the villagers, is o not victimized. Instead, it is simply what the village has done for generations. Therefore, it is the reader who identifies the victimization which appears in the text. If one is not familiar with the concept of victimization, he or she will not identify this particular theme as universal.

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