What is the central idea in "The Lottery" by Shirley Jackson?  

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Lorraine Caplan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

There are, I'm sure, differing opinions on this, but most people see the central idea of "The Lottery" as the idea that blind adherence to tradition and to authority is a very bad idea, for individuals or for communities.  This is a story in which people participate in a ritual that ends in the certain death of one of their own, and no one in the story even knows why! Yet they all happily follow Mr. Summer's instructions, to the bitter end.  I have read that Jackson had Nazi Germany in her mind as she wrote this story, as an answer to the question of how in the world people could live within a few miles of a concentration camp and be completely unaware that Jews, Gypsies, and many others were being slaughtered in the hundreds of thousands. The story does to some degree explain this, but its theme is really universal, telling us that even in the loveliest and most innocent-seeming of villages, there is a price to be paid for not questioning tradition and not thinking for oneself.  

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The Lottery

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