The Lottery Questions and Answers
by Shirley Jackson

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In Shirley Jackson's story "The Lottery,"  of what is Tessie symbolic?

Tessie is symbolic of the scapegoat in "The Lottery," which is sacrificed in ritual atonement for the sins of the tribe. However, she is also an average member of the tribe who sees nothing wrong with the system until she is selected.

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Tessie symbolizes the scapegoat or sacrificial victim. In ancient tribal societies, this figure was quite literally a goat upon which all the sins of the tribe were symbolically placed before it was killed, often by driving it out into the desert with sticks and stones. There are many variations on this practice, which clearly influenced the idea of substitutionary atonement in Christianity. Tessie, however, is unlike both Christ and the scapegoat in being a willing participant in the process right up to the point at which she realizes what her role is to be.

This dual role in the story means that Tessie symbolizes not only the scapegoat, but also, along with the other participants, the mad frenzy of the crowd, which is so anxious to be cleansed of its sin that it is willing to murder one of its own number. It is true that Tessie is not one of the most enthusiastic supporters of the lottery, like Old Man Warner or Mr. Summers , who officiates. She turns up late to the ceremony because she...

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The story "The Lottery" was written shortly after World War II and the Holocaust.  When Jackson wrote her story it was meant to represent American society.  The idea in the lottery is that the lottery looks like a good thing.  The people are all for it.  They even hurry through their chores to get to be there on time.  Tessie is also a person who is excited about the lottery.  The symbolism relates to the situation with the people who were killed by the Nazi's.  The Germans were excited as well.  However, when Tessie realizes it is she who ahs been chosen to die she wants it stopped and tells them to kill someone else. 

Tessie represents the one who was silent until they came for her.  This is often echoed as a sentiment about the Nazi's being able to go so far in their campaign to destroy the population of people who were deemed as imperfect, Jewish, Gypsies, or Jehovah Witness.  The rest of the world stood by and watched and did nothing just as Tessie had done in the past when the lottery had been held and she had not been chosen.