What are the conflicts in the short story "The Lottery"?

One conflict in the short story "The Lottery" concerns Tessie Hutchinson versus her small village. Tessie challenges the brutal ritual, but her neighbors force her to participate. There is another conflict involving the northern villages, who have ended the ritual. The wider, underlying conflict concerns tradition versus modernity, and Mr. Summers is in conflict with the villagers over replacing the black box.

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The main conflict of the short story is Tessie Hutchinson versus her village, which subscribes to the brutal tradition of the lottery. Tessie Hutchinson believes that Mr. Summers did not give her husband enough time to draw a slip from the black box and publicly criticizes the lottery. Despite her...

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The main conflict of the short story is Tessie Hutchinson versus her village, which subscribes to the brutal tradition of the lottery. Tessie Hutchinson believes that Mr. Summers did not give her husband enough time to draw a slip from the black box and publicly criticizes the lottery. Despite her argument, Tessie becomes the victim of the lottery and is stoned to death by her family and neighbors. Another conflict is between the village and surrounding towns, which have put an end to the brutal ritual. Mr. Adams states that the northern villages have foregone the tradition, and Old Man Warner responds by calling them a pack of "crazy fools."

The debate between the villages exposes another conflict, which is tradition versus modernity. The lottery symbolically represents outdated traditional views. The ritual was founded on a superstitious belief, and the majority of citizens are staunch traditionalists, determined to carry on the senseless lottery. Rational audiences recognize the lottery as a senseless ritual, which does not impact the crop yield or improve life in the village. There is also a conflict between Mr. Summers and the community regarding the black box. Mr. Summers wants to replace the black box, but the villagers do not want to upset the tradition. Tessie Hutchinson also experiences an internal conflict during the lottery. Tessie does not want to participate in the lottery but feels compelled to participate in the annual ritual by drawing from the black box.

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A main conflict in the story is superstition versus rationalism. Although the story is set in a New England village in the mid-twentieth century, an old superstition persists about the need for a human sacrifice to insure a good harvest. This flies in the face of modern science and rationality, a reality of which most of the villagers seem uncomfortably aware.

This discomfort with the superstitious tradition is manifested in several ways. First, the villagers are unwilling to fix or replace the splintering black box in which the lottery tickets are kept. It is as if they hope that when the box falls apart, so will the ritual. Second, they have also pared the ritual down, treating it as an event they want to get over with as quickly as possible. Finally, one villager hopefully notes that other villages have abandoned their lotteries, an idea quashed by Old Man Warner.

The villagers maintain a tradition that, though barbaric, is part of life as they know it. The story shows how difficult change can be.

Another conflict is between self and other. This is played out through Tessie Hutchinson. She is fine with the lottery year after year, not questioning its fairness when other people are chosen to be stoned. However, when it is her turn to die, she suddenly finds the tradition unfair and unacceptable. The story encourages us to regard traditions that hurt others as also potentially harmful to us.

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The predominant type of external conflict found in Shirley Jackson's classic short story "The Lottery" is considered a Man vs. Society conflict. One minor example of this type of conflict is Mr. Summer's failed attempt at gathering support to replace the old black box. Despite his suggestion, the villagers revere the tradition so much that they refuse to upset the slightest aspect of the ritual by making a new black box. Therefore, Mr. Summer's attempt to replace the black box and the subsequent backlash from the community is considered a Man vs. Society external conflict.

Another Man (Woman) vs. Society conflict is Tessie Hutchinson's protest after her husband draws the marked slip of paper. Tessie Hutchinson is portrayed as the village scapegoat and she desperately challenges the barbaric lottery ritual by insisting that the entire ceremony is not fair. Tragically, the villagers strictly adhere to the senseless, violent tradition and proceed to stone her to death.

An example of an internal conflict takes place when Tessie Hutchinson hesitates to draw her slip of paper. Tessie disagrees with the entire ritual and purposefully hesitates before drawing the slip. Her reluctance to draw the slip of paper and defiant disposition indicates that she is struggling with the decision to select a slip of paper or refuse to participate in the tradition. Her struggle to decide what course of action to take at the critical moment is an example of an internal conflict.

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There are a number of conflicts within the short story, "The Lottery." 

First, there is the conflict among villages. Some villages have stopped the lottery.  This particular village is more conservative and they resist.  Old Man Warner calls those who gave up the lottery a "pack of crazy fools."  This conflict is not explicit, but we can imagine that there is some pressure to stop the lottery.

Second, there is also conflict among the citizens of the town. When it was found out that Bill Hutchinson "won" the lottery, Tessie said it was not fair.  She stated that her husband did not have enough time to pick the paper he wanted.  Her protest grows when she is found to have the black mark.  In fact, the story ends with her words:

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

Finally, if we look at the story from another perspective, we can say that there is conflict between tradition and the present world.  Tradition keeps the villagers conducting the lottery, even if they want to give it up.  We can say that tradition is oppressive. 

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