How might the fact that "The Lottery" was written just after WWII influence the reader’s interpretation of this story?
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Cruelty to any person in the name of personal benefit would have resonated. Also the blinders that others put on with regard to the actions of the lottery is similar to those who insisted that Hitler and the Holocaust didn't really happen or weren't as bad as they were made out to be.
There is little left to add after such acute observations-- Congratulations to all 4 editors prior to this response. What seems most salient in all the historical references alluded to in relation to Shirley Jackson's story is the common element of people following a precept, a law, a way of thinking without any thought of their own. Obviously, Jackson noticed that many, many people are sheep. (How many times have people remarked, "Well, that's just how it is," or "That's just how we do it"--like Old Man Warner)
As herappleness so cogently remarks, it only takes a refusal to go along to end this inane ritual. But, obviously, people are fearful, just as in Jackson's story the people "grinned nervously" and "talk nervously."
Aside from the aspect of communism, the lack of individuality, the inability to choose, and the collective notion of the adoption of the same ideals, there is one aspect in the lottery that remains unseen: The fact that all it takes is one person, one ideal, one action, and one moment to change another person's fate forever.
The Lottery was based on fate. Whatever came out, would happen. This is the same way the spread of fear was occurring: We have, for instance, a Hitler, choosing a race of people for his bloody agenda. We have the USSR basically making a lottery out of the places where communism will be spread. It is the notion of one crazy person being able to play lottery with a race, with a country, and with a way of life.
At the end of WWII, the United States and the rest of the free world had a new threat to worry about---the spread of Communism. The U.S.S.R. was taking over many of the countries of central Europe, and was spreading out the Far East as well.
In America, the “Cold” War was beginning, and the country was on alert to watch out for infiltrators and people who were member s of the Communist Party. The “Red Scare” was taking over the county.
Shirley Jackson symbolized this threat in “The Lottery.” The people in the town were willing to sacrifice one of their own for the good of the “community.” This typified the communist philosophy that there was no individuality---the good of the community as a whole was the most important thing.
If you think about some of the themes of this story, you can see why they would really have resonated with people right after WWII. Some of the themes are:
- Cruelty by people who seem to be civilized
- The importance of tradition in the cruelty and violence
You can see where both of these would have sounded familiar to people right after WWII.
WWII had some of the worst-ever cruelty by people who claimed to be civilized. The atrocities of the Germans against the Jews and of the Japanese against the Chinese and others were shocking in their brutality.
The violence and cruelty of these actions were driven in some part by tradition. For the Germans, the tradition was of antisemitism (traditional throughout Europe) and of blaming Jews for many problems. In Japan, the tradition was of bushido (the "Samurai spirit") and contempt for people lower down in the social hierarchy.
So as you read the story, knowing when it was written, you tend to make these connections and you tend to interpret the story as being about this stuff.
Shirley Jackson's short story “The Lottery” was written after World War II has a strong relationship to the experiences of the war. The date, location, and even the people's names are used to suggest that "It could not happen to them." To better understand that concept one needs to look at the circumstances that occurred during WWII. Adolph Hitler was in control of the Nazi party. The Nazi’s engaged in genocide and sank to the deepest depths of inhumane acts in order to annihilate people considered to be "less" based on their political views. .The general expression that went around from people was that such an occurrence could never happen in America.
The author fails to tell the reader the location of the lottery. Indicators let the reader know that the population is small (300 people), and it is an agrarian community. The names are Anglo-Saxon. The land is rocky filled with stones.
The term "the lottery" gives the reader the idea that the community is run by democracy. It gives one an idea that perhaps the people could be New England settlers from long ago. The season is summer. The names of the people also subject the reader to the idea of the first man, Adam, and Graves, a burial place. Tessie is representative of "Tess of D'Ubervilles," who was subjected to a tragic life and death. It is ironic that she is looking forward to attending the lottery. Looking back on World War II the Germans also looked forward to the rule of Adolph Hitler unaware of the fate of the country and the people who were "lesser."
When Tessie is chosen, she is the target. In this way she is similar to the Jews who never believed that the politics of the Nazi party could lead to their demise. She then protests of the unfairness of the process.
The complacency of the citizens of Europe and the other countries is reflected in the poem when no one responds other than to stone the woman to death. Her screams mean nothing and get no response other than people needing to get done to go to supper.
The lottery is a shocking revelation that "It can happen to you."
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