In "The Lottery" what does the story reveal about human nature?
In addition to the suggestion of the savage cruelty inherent in people, Shirley Jackson's "The Lottery" has as a theme the blind adherence to ritual. The banal conversations and cheerful demeanor of Mr. Summers, while belying the horror to come, point to the unthinking acceptance of tradition, no matter what the consequences. This blind faith in tradition is evidenced as well in the character of Old Man Warner, who irrationally argues with others that mention some villages have discontinued their lotteries,
"Pack of crazy fools....There's always been a lottery.....Nothing but trouble in that," Old Man Warner said stoutly, "Pack of young fools."
Mrs. Delacroix, too, illustrates this unthinking following of tradition. For, even though she is friendly to Mrs. Hutchinson, chatting with her in the earlier part of the narrative, when the lottery begins as Mr. Summers urges, "Let's finish quickly," she picks up a stone so large that she must hold it with both hands, all the while encouraging someone else to "Hurry up." The townspeople, then, completely ignore Mrs. Hutchinson's screams of "It ain't fair, it isn't right" and stone her according to custom.
The horrific ending of "The Lottery" juxtaposed against the tranquil setting of a small town suggests that human nature is essentially violent. The author compounds the frightening violence of the lottery winner's death by having the person's sentence carried out by every member of the town. Jackson's short story suggests that human nature is inherently driven by violence, because the townspeople maintain a clearly despised and vicious ritual. They actively participate in murdering one of their own, and even family members are expected to join in the killing of their loved one. "The Lottery" sends a strong message about the dangers of mob mentality and the social acceptance of violence.