The Lottery Questions and Answers
by Shirley Jackson

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In "The Lottery," which character objects to violence because when it appears to do good, the good is only temporary, and the evil it does is permanent?

The character in “The Lottery” that objects to violence is Steve Adams. He bravely brings up the idea that another village is “talking of giving up the lottery.” Through this statement, Adams suggests that his own village should perhaps stop this violent ritual or at least discuss ending its practice. Unlike Old Man Warner, Adams does not value the temporary "good" or benefits over the permanent evil of the violent lottery.

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In the short story “The Lottery,” the character who seems to object to the lottery and the violence behind it is Steve Adams. Like other fellow villagers, he obediently and nervously chooses a slip of paper from the black box to determine whether or not his family “wins” the lottery. As Mr. Summers runs through a list of heads of households to step up and select a slip of paper from the box, Adams comments to Old Man Warner—who is participating in his seventy-seventh lottery—“They do say … that over in the north village they’re talking of giving up the lottery.”

Adams appears unwilling to rock the boat or appear a rebel. Nonetheless, he does muster the courage to speak up to the most senior villager that another group might no longer be following this barbaric practice. Adams implies that their own village should follow suit; at the very least, perhaps they could discuss “giving up the lottery.” Old Man Warner immediately rejects that notion as naïve and foolish, dismissing it as the idea of crazy young folks. In fact, Warner states that the purpose of the lottery is to guarantee a healthy crop to feed the villagers:

Used to be a saying about ‘Lottery in June, corn be heavy soon.’ First thing you know, we’d all be eating stewed chickweed and acorns. There’s always been a lottery.

Warner thinks that abolishing the lottery would cause people to regress to primitive cave dwellers who no longer want to work. He thinks they would eventually eat chickweed and acorns like animals.

Adams’s own wife echoes her husband’s sentiments, noting that some other villages have “quit” or ceased the cruel lotteries. So although the lottery appears to do good (i.e., yielding bountiful corn), the benefits are only temporary. In fact, the evil created by the lottery and villagers’ blind allegiance to this practice is permanent; the lottery has become an unquestioned annual tradition of murder.

At the end of the story, when Old Man Warner encourages everyone to close in on and stone the lottery “winner,” Tessie Hutchinson, Steve Adams stands “in the front of the crowd of villagers.” Author Jackson does not describe his further actions, leaving the reader to wonder: did Steve Adams capitulate to and join in the violent ritual, or is he silently trying to block other villagers from stoning Tessie Hutchinson?

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