What is the author's theme or central idea in the story "The Lottery?"

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pirateteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Associate Educator

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Shirley Jackson's short story "The Lottery" tells a simple story about a town's annual lottery.  However, as the reader continues, they soon see that this is not a typical lottery and it's "winner" gets more than they bargained for.

Jackson has the unnamed narrator quote people in the town who don't remember exactly why the town still has a lottery as well as people who grow quite upset when they hear of other towns discontinuing their lotteries.

This dichotomy between the young and old members of the town shows Jackson's theme that people should beware of following traditions without understand the reasoning behind them.

There was a story that the present box had been made with some pieces of the box that had preceded it, the one that had been constructed when the first people settled down to make a village here. Every year, after the lottery, Mr. Summers began talking again about a new box, but every year the subject was allowed to fade off without anything's being done.

The black box grew shabbier each year: by now it was no longer completely black but splintered badly along one side to show the original wood color, and in some places faded or stained.

The box used for the lottery is not the original box but the second one.  It is shabby and falling apart, but the town is afraid to move away from the traditions, much in the same way the town will not move away from the tradition of the lottery itself.

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