Is the lottery a collective act of murder?

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Normally, I would hedge my bets on any question that probes into the complexities of any work in literature.  This one, I am fairly confident that Jackson would respond in the affirmative.  Yep, the town is guilty of a collective act of murder.  Jackson writes the lottery in a time period that follows the Holocaust, and the lessons learned from this time period are not lost on Jackson, who was conscious of the "distressing world of the concentration camp and the bomb."   At the same time, the spreading of Communism, a setting where the rights of "the public" easily outweighed the voice of the minority was also in Jackson's social context at the time of writing.  The story reflects how individuals fail to stop Tessie's murder.  Additionally, Jackson constructs the narrative so that the townspeople are all complicit in what happens.  When Tessie's last words question the practice on the grounds of "fair" and "right," and no one stops what happens, Jackson seems to implicate all of them in the collective act of murder.  I don't think that she sees much middle ground here as the community is fundamentally guilty of a horrific oversight of individual suffering.