In "The Lottery" by Shirley Jackson, what is the function of the black box? What does the black box reveal about the story?

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readerofbooks | College Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

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The black box is a central feature of the short story. It is mentioned in every important scene, and it is certainly venerated, arguably more than any other object in the town. Here are some examples. For example, when the Mr. Summers comes with the black box, this signals that the lottery is about to start formally. In fact, according to the story, the box is made from parts and pieces of older black boxes. This shows how much the people venerated the box. It was a part of their hallowed tradition.  Here is what the text says:

There was a story that the present box had been made with some pieces of the box that had preceded it, the one that had been constructed when the first people settled down to make a village here.

The night before Mr. Graves and Mrs. Summers put the names of the citizen in the black box to conduct the lottery on the next day. From the box, then, the people would draw out names to see who had the black dot. 

All of this shows that the people are committed to tradition. Moreover, it shows that even if no one knows why they use the box or why they even perform the lottery, the people are committed to this odd and brutal act. The blind lead the blind. 

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