I need a good point to make about the symbolism in my essay on "The Lottery" by Shirley Jacksonmy body paragraphs will either be about symbols of life and death or symbols of tradition and...

I need a good point to make about the symbolism in my essay on "The Lottery" by Shirley Jackson

my body paragraphs will either be about symbols of life and death or symbols of tradition and crumbling tradition. or maybe even all of them.. what could my thesis statement be about that shows how all of the symbolism works together to highlight the theme? what could i even say the theme is?

if this doesn't sound like such a great idea, then is there some other way i can organize my essay? i dont HAVE to use symbolism either..

Expert Answers
teachertaylor eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Keeping the thematic focus suggested above, you could add on to this by developing arguments about the symbols of death that are prominent in the story.  The color black which we often associate with death pervades the story in its use for important items in the lottery:  the black box and the black-spotted paper.  You might also mention the symbolism behind characters' names such as Mr. Summers (ironically) and Mr. Graves.

discussion | Student

Perhaps you can argue that Jackson displays a community's tendency to cling to ritual and tradition. In that case, the whole lottery becomes symbolic of the community's sheep-like mentality. Special attention can be paid to the yearly ceremony with its foreboding black box, the name-drawing and all its ritualistic formality, the superstitious rhyme: "Lottery in June, corn be heavy soon," and even the use of rocks for the murder--"Although the villagers had forgotten the ritual and lost the original black box, they still remembered to use the stones."

One of the most interesting comments that displays how the community clings to tradition is made by Old Man Warner, who compares giving up the lottery to "wanting to go back to living in caves." He points out that there has ALWAYS been a lottery. Ironically, he judges the places that have quit the lottery as regressive rather than progressive, and foolish rather than humane. In that sense, Old Man Warner is symbolic of the illogical nature of "tradition for tradition's sake."  The emphasis of the children's place in the stoning (including Tessie's own son) symbolizes how societies can normalize and easily pass down cruel traditions to younger generations.

Jackson creates a fictitious, exaggerated human sacrifice story that nonetheless reminds us that mob mentality is alive and well.

Read the study guide:
The Lottery

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