What does "The Lottery" imply about family loyalties and human nature?

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pmiranda2857 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In "The Lottery," the story implies that there are no family loyalties, only self-preservation.  This is evidenced by the way that the Hutchinson family behaves when they are required to select slips, as the chosen family, to determine which member of their family will win the lottery.  There is detached indifference on the part of Mr. Hutchinson, particularly when his wife protests that the process has not been carried out properly.

"Bill Hutchinson went over to his wife and forced the slip of paper out of her hand. It had a black spot on it, the black spot Mr. Summers had made the night before with the heavy pencil in the coal company office. Bill Hutchinson held it up, and there was a stir in the crowd." (Jackson)

Mr. Hutchinson is cruel and indifferent to the fact that his wife has drawn the slip with the black mark.  He is relieved that it is not him.  He forces her to show the gathered crowd that she is the "winner."

Human nature is based on, Shirley Jackson points out, exclusively, on self-preservation.  Family loyalty, in this story has no meaning, no value.

Human nature is at its core, cruel and violent.  Jackson implies that given the choice between death and murder, most of us will pick up a heavy stone, just like Mrs. Delacroix.

"The pile of stones the boys had made earlier was ready; there were stones on the ground with the blowing scraps of paper that had come out of the box Delacroix selected a stone so large she had to pick it up with both hands and turned to Mrs. Dunbar. "Come on," she said. "Hurry up." (Jackson)

scarletpimpernel eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In "The Lottery," Shirley Jackson implies that when humans are forced to choose between self-preservation and family commitment, it is natural for them to choose themselves. In the story, no one in the family volunteers to take another family member's place.  It is clearly every "man" for himself.  If you've read Night, you will see this theme repeated.  Many of the younger concentration camp sons choose to keep their food to themselves, preserve their own health, or distance themselves from their fathers in order to survive.

obwhite | Student

in the real life everyone cares for themselves really. if you put a group of mens in a room and let them starve for a couple of days and throw in a bread, those guys would go crazy to get the bread. they could fight and hurt the other person so that they alone can have the bread and feel full again. this also happened alot in the holocoust. the germans soliders would not feed the jews lots of food and let them kind of starve, then we see when a peice of bread is thrown in the crowd they all go crazy and fight one another even though they are all the same race, they just want to live and survive for another day.