What do you make of Old Man Warners's saying "Lottery in June, corn be heavy soon"?
The narrator identifies Old Man Warner as the oldest man in town. The black box in use for the lottery had been put into use even before he was born, so clearly, the ritual of the lottery has been in place for hundreds of years. He says, "petulantly," "there's always been a lottery," when talk of discontinuing it arises.The adverb "petulantly" connotes Old Man Warner being crotchety—an out-of-touch, querulous relic of a bygone era.
When he says "Lottery in June, corn be heavy soon," his rhymed couplet sounds like an outdated, aphoristic recitation that has lost its meaning in a new age. In writing "The Lottery," Shirley Jackson perhaps meant for readers to question other rituals and traditions that had lost their relevance or meaning and that might be essentially barbaric. Stoning a person to death undoubtedly qualifies as a barbaric ritual that needs to be reexamined, and Old Man Warner's voice as its defender is equally questionable.
One of the themes of "The Lottery" was the adherence to tradition. What Warner was saying was that because the town was adhering to the tradition of the lottery the town would have good luck in the coming year. The people believed that the lottery was a direct influence on their prosperity. "Corn be heavy soon," meant that the farmers in the community would have a good harvest and the community would continue to grow and prosper. "Old Man Warner, the oldest man in the village, also represents the theme of tradition. When Mr. and Mrs. Adams suggest to Warner that some other villages have already given up the lottery or are thinking about doing so, he replies with, "Next thing you know, they'll be wanting to go back to living in caves . There's always been a lottery."
Old Man Warner makes the connection between the survival of the town and the purpose of the lottery, human sacrifice.
In many ancient cultures there was a belief that if a sacrifice, a human sacrifice was made to the gods, it would insure the survival of the village or town, suggesting that the growth of the crops was controlled by the gods.
The lottery is a classic illustration of the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few or the one. For the survival of the town to continue the lottery must be held to keep the gods content and for them to continue to provide good harvests.