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While the behaviors might seem similar, and perhaps they are, there are two entirely different things going on here. In "The Lottery" by Shirley Jackson, the community is engaging in a tradition established long ago and still accepted as correct. That is the way of life for the community, and as ludicrous as it seems to us, they have established a fair way to decide the dubious winner. Bullying, however, is not an accepted or approved behavior in our society. Bullies pick on easy targets and there is nothing fair about the behavior of a bully.
"The Lottery" deals with a tradition that is so old that no one really remembers why it started or how. Although they mention it is important to the successful harvest of a plentiful crop, everyone accepts that this is basically hogwash. Even the nearer towns have stopped conducting lotteries, and there is no evidence that their crops have suffered.
Now, with regard to bullying, I'm not so sure there is much of a connection. It could be that bullying has been around for a long time, and that it is shameful so no one really talks about it. Or, we could go with the angle that like the lottery, no one is really sure how to go about ending bullying. Apart from these two options, I am stymied.
Shirley Jackson's The Lottery is a morbid but very justifiable example of people groups who do something just because everyone else is. My students are currently reading The Crucible and we talk about how the little girls firgured out how if they just placed the blame elsewhere, then they would keep out of trouble. My question to students was, "Is it worth someone else's life just to keep from being in trouble?"
I think this is what often runs true in schools. People who are bullied fear that administration will do nothing, and then when bulliers find out that they were ratted on, they harass all the more. The cycle is vicious. In The Lottery, no one does anything about a situation they can see is not good. We are blinded in our society too. We believe, "that won't happen at our school." Or, "the bullying isn't that bad." Before we know it, the newspaper headlines come from our classrooms because we did nothing to stop it.
I would agree that the current trends of suicides as a result of bullying probably has a lot to do with peer pressure. In most of theses cases the bullying has not been as much physical as mental, I think this type of bullying tends to happen with larger groups of students.
This is quite timely, as we’ve heard about a recent spate of suicides, many from the same school, because of bullying. I only see one point of comparison, though--the consequences of doing nothing can be deadly. I heard interviews with several of the family members just last week, and the parents had apparently gone numerous times to talk to both the individual teachers and the administration but nothing changed. Students reported that teachers remained uninvolved unless the altercation got physical, as it did in a few cases. When the harassed students couldn’t take it anymore, they went home and ended their lives. The consequences of doing nothing, then, are deadly both in the story and real life—except Mrs. Delacroix is a fictional character.
One common thread that links the behavior in the story with the actions of those who engage in bullying is the complete lack of empathy for victims. Victims are dehumanized and objectified; they become not human beings but targets. For this to happen, the abusers must lose touch with their own humanity and merge their individuality into the mob, which takes on a life and an identity of its own. A powerful examination of this phenomenon is the scene in To Kill a Mockingbird when Scout breaks the spell of mob mentality by reminding Mr. Cunningham who he is, restoring his individual identity.
"The Lottery" is a dark story on so many levels. The power of blind tradition and social pressure is there, of course, but the most disturbing theme, I think, is the inherent savage nature of these "civilized" people living in a friendly community. It's a common theme in literature--Lord of the Flies and A Separate Peace, to name only two works--but it is still shocking. Bullying, whether done by an individual or by a group, is a display of savage behavior. It comes from a dark place in the human heart.
I think you can make a number of extremely valid points. I have added the link to the enotes section on themes on this excellent story below to back up what I say, but one of the major themes of this terrifying tale is how communities and individuals participate in violence and commit hideous acts without protesting or standing up against it. It is clear that the role of tradition in the carrying out of the Lottery is very important - note how it is stressed by Mr. Summers and also focus on the disparaging comments he makes about other communities that have stopped carrying out the Lottery. It is tradition itself that forces this village to keep on performing the Lottery every year, and thereby committing a hideous murder every year.
To me, one of the most horrific moments is when Mrs. Delacroix picks up a stone that is so big she has to use both hands to do so. She has just been chatting to Tess as a friend and they have been swapping stories of what has been going on in their families. Then, she suddenly turns on Tess, her former friend, and is key in urging others to hurry up with the punishment.
These aspects can be linked to bullying in lots of ways. Certainly in classes you could argue that all are involved in this act of bullying and none stand up for the person that is being bullied - their is a culture of bullying that is based on violence - either verbal, physical or psychological - or sometimes all three. Secondly, the rapid change of Mrs. Delacroix can be seen in such environments, as the loyalties of school classes can rapidly shift with a friend one day becoming an enemy the next. I wonder to, whether in the past (but hopefully not today), bullying might be unofficially sanctioned by the school administration as being "character building" or "just a bit of fun", thereby continuing the tradition of bullying through generations.
Not so much bullying but certainly peer pressure is a key element that we can identify in "The Lottery". One of the current events we see is how belonging to specific groups can mark you for life. For example, these kids who get swept away by gangs, religious radicals, and other fundamentalist organizations forget themselves in the process of belonging to a group, become a part of it, and sometimes die as a result of it.
Gangs, for example, are collective groups that "love you in", and then from the moment you are a part of it, you can forget about your independence, identity, and dignity as they will all belong to the gang.
With terrorist groups it is also obvious since they literally give up their lives for the cause in which they are sucked in.
Religious fanaticism is no different either.
I am not sure that the story is related to bullying. Its central premise is that there is a tradition that happens every year, and the people go through with it without understanding the true nature of it, and this is revealed in the horrific stoning accident in the conclusion. Bullying results from aggressive behavior with ill will intentions. The story does not contain any of these.
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