In Shirley Jackson's "The Lottery," what are two characteristics the villagers value?

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William Delaney eNotes educator| Certified Educator

One characteristic the villagers seem to value, in addition to respect for tradition, is conformity. Each person who comes to participate in the drawings and the stoning seems to be doing so because everybody else is doing it. The one exception is Old Man Warner. He really enjoys the annual lottery and supports it enthusiastically. There are obviously some who think it is obsolete, but they are afraid to express their opinions directly. They would like somebody else to do so. They don't want to stand out in the crowd. A good example is Steve Adams. 

"They do say," Mr. Adams said to Old Man Warner, who stood next to him, "that over in the north village they're talking of giving up the lottery."

This seems like a very weak way for Steve Adams to express his doubts about the value of this savage custom, but at least he is venturing to hint at an objection. If enough people were openly opposed to continuing the lottery, Adams would probably be happy to join them, but he will not try to initiate anything.

Even Mr. Summers, who conducts the lottery every year, seems to be carrying out his duties only because it is expected of him. He wants to get it over with as quickly as possible.

"Well, now." Mr. Summers said soberly, "guess we better get started, get this over with, so's we can go back to work."

When five members of the Hutchinson family are drawing slips to determine which of them will be stoned to death, 

A girl whispered, "I hope it's not Nancy," and the sound of the whisper reached the edges of the crowd.

She whispers because she is afraid to be seen as objecting—even hypothetically—to the stoning of her friend. She is too young and timid to express her abhorrence of this meaningless ritual. If it did turn out to be Nancy who drew the slip with the black spot, the girl who whispered "I hope it's not Nancy" would undoubtedly participate in the stoning along with everyone else.

Only Tessie Hutchinson, who gets the black spot, voices what many of the people in the crowd are feeling. Tessie becomes an outsider, a non-person, a target, and a scapegoat from the moment she draws the fatal spot.

"It isn't fair, it isn't right," Mrs. Hutchinson screamed, and then they were upon her.

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The Lottery

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