How would you relate the symbolism of "The Lottery" to the practice of scapegoating?Shirley Jackson's "The Lottery"

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The Russian physiologist Ivan Petrovich Pavlov proved that certain objects or sounds and sights condition people.  This classical conditioning, as the phenomenon is termed, is clearly present in Shirley Jackson's short story, "The Lottery" as the sight of certain things causes the residents of the village to react.  For instance, as the men gather, they stand together,

away from the pile of stones in the corner, and their jokes were quiet and they smiled rather than laughed.

Obviously, the men are ill at ease after they see the pile of stones which represent the death of the scapegoat that is soon to take place.  Likewise, when Mr. Summers arrives with the black box which contains the slips of paper, one of which is marked with a black spot for the scapegoat, "there was a murmur of conversation among the villagers."  They, then, keep their distance and leave a cautious space between themselves and the stool upon which this box will rest.

Each of these symbols--the stones, the black box, and the black spot--have suggestions of death attached to them.  Because of this representation of the death of the scapegoat, the symbols cause uneasiness among the villagers whose fears are aroused that they may be marked as the scapegoat during this drawing.  In this way, the symbolism of the objects, because of the villagers conditioning, is related to the practice of scapegoating.

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The Lottery

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