How are "The Lottery" and "A Rose for Emily" similar in themes?   

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Susan Hurn eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Although both stories deal with murder, there are stronger themes that they share: the power of society over the individual and the destructive nature of unexamined tradition and "group think."

Faulkner's Jefferson is a small Southern town mired in a toxic culture of social conformity. The most insignificant details of daily life in Jefferson are influenced by tradition; the important ones are controlled and directed by it. Acceptable behavior, by Jefferson standards, is enforced not by law but by custom, habit, gossip, and the threat of condemnation by others. Born into this society, Miss Emily lived her life as she was expected to live her life, despite its emptiness. When she rebelled with Homer Barron, Jefferson was aghast, but Emily carried on in her own way, as the town discovered years later when Barron's body was found. Emily lived to a ripe old age, but thanks to the town, her spirit died young.

Shirley Jackson's village is much like Jefferson in that its citizens live according to tradition and custom, never thinking independently or questioning their individual or collective behavior. Their obedience is so blind that they continue to participate, in a very civil manner, in the brutal lottery, again individually and collectively. Once the stoning begins, however, there are no individuals at all--only a savage mob.

Although their stories are quite different in setting and plot, Faulkner's and Jackson's themes are not. Unthinking adherence to tradition for the sake of tradition is a destructive social force that is difficult, if not impossible, to oppose.

 

 

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The Lottery

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