In Shirley Jackson's story "The Lottery"  of what is Tessie symbolic?"The Lottery"

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Representative of one of the few rebellious voices in Shirley Jackson's "The Lottery" who protest unthinking tradition, Tessie Hutchinson, who has drawn the card with the black dot, complains against her being chosen as the victim, declaring that the lottery is "not fair." 

But, perhaps, as a symbol, Tessie stands for the oppressed woman in a male-dominated society. For one thing, in the arrangement of the lottery, women are assigned to the households of their husbands and are given little voice.  And, it is the man who draws the slips: 

'There goes my old man,' Mrs. Delacroix said.  She held her breath while her husband went forward.In an instance of delineating female from male authority, Jackson writes that when Mrs. Martin calls over her son Bobby,

he ducked under his mother's grasping hand, and ran, laughing, back to the pile of stones....By now, all through the crowd there were men holding the small folded paper in their large hands, turning them over and over....  

Not only are Tessie's protests ignored by the man in charge of the lottery, Mr. Summers, but they are given no consideration by her husband, Bill Hutchinson.  When Mr. Summers says, "Show us her paper, Bill," Tessie's husband offers no objections; instead, he forces the slip of paper out of her hand, and holds it up for all to see.  The other women, who must "stand by their husbands" make no protest on her behalf, also demonstrating their repression.


M.P. Ossa eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Tessie represents the break from tradition through rebellion.

First, she apparently wears the pants in the house, compared to the other women in the village, who stood submissively by their husbands. In fact, she goes as far as ordering him around in front of the crowd.

Second, showing up late at the lottery and apparently feeling no shame about this very important faux pas shows the little care and interest she had for this ancient-tradition in the village. She also was away from the family when she arrived, meaning that she had relinquished her responsibilities upon her husband.

Third, Tess protests the lottery. Nobody else did, and we do not know for sure if she would have protested if she had not been chosen, but that does not matter: The fact of the matter is that she did not go subdued like the previous victims, and that shows her overall lack of care for what the town's traditions are about.

mkcapen1 | Student

The story "The Lottery" was written shortly after World War II and the Holocaust.  When Jackson wrote her story it was meant to represent American society.  The idea in the lottery is that the lottery looks like a good thing.  The people are all for it.  They even hurry through their chores to get to be there on time.  Tessie is also a person who is excited about the lottery.  The symbolism relates to the situation with the people who were killed by the Nazi's.  The Germans were excited as well.  However, when Tessie realizes it is she who ahs been chosen to die she wants it stopped and tells them to kill someone else. 

Tessie represents the one who was silent until they came for her.  This is often echoed as a sentiment about the Nazi's being able to go so far in their campaign to destroy the population of people who were deemed as imperfect, Jewish, Gypsies, or Jehovah Witness.  The rest of the world stood by and watched and did nothing just as Tessie had done in the past when the lottery had been held and she had not been chosen.


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The Lottery

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