What does the large stone represent?

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When Tessie Hutchinson arrives for the lottery, she goes right to Mrs. Delacroix. She remarks that she "'Clean forgot what day it was,'" and both women "laughed softly." Tessie explains that she believed her husband was working in their backyard, and then she suddenly realized he and her kids were gone; this sparked her memory and she "'came a-running.'" This kind of casual chatter seems to indicate that the two women are friends, familiars. Tessie even taps her friend on the arm, as if to say "farewell," before she makes her way up to her family in the crowd. Despite this apparent relationship, however, when Tessie draws the marked paper, Mrs. Delacroix seems to forget all about the friendship and she picks up a large stone, so large that she needs two hands to carry it. This stone can be interpreted as a symbol of the significance of tradition in this community, no matter how outmoded or nonsensical or inhumane the tradition is.

The narrator has mentioned that the black box used in the lottery has grown "shabbier each year" and is chipped and splintered in many places. However, whenever Mr. Summers brings up the idea of making a new one, it can never prevail on the others to do so because "no one liked to upset even as much tradition as was represented by the black box." Old Man Warner, the oldest man in town, thinks there is "'Nothing but trouble'" in the idea of quitting lotteries, as other towns have done, and he seems most interested in maintaining the tradition only because it is a tradition. He says, "'There's always been a lottery.'" It is difficult for people to give up what is familiar, what feels right and normal to them, even if it isn't, and the size of Mrs. Delacroix's stone shows us that this community values tradition over kindness, friendship, and even humanity.

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The large stone represents the most intense form of community sanctioned violence.  Mrs. Delacroix had been depicted as Tessie's friend throughout the narrative.  They had been interacting with intimate knowledge of the other.  At the same time, they had been close throughout the selection process.  Yet, when Tessie's name is pulled, their loyalty and friendship evaporates almost with frightening abandon.

When Mrs. Delacroix finds the large stone, it is a moment in which one sees how the allure of violence and cruelty is something that is intrinsic into human consciousness.  Jackson describes this moment as quite telling:  "Delacroix selected a stone so large she had to pick it up with both hands and turned to Mrs. Dunbar. 'Come on,' she said. 'Hurry up."  When Mrs. Delacroix picks up the large stone with so much zeal and enthusiasm, the large stone represents the vehicle for her cruelty and violence.  The large stone is a representation of what human beings are capable of doing when they are following social norms and embracing socially sanctioned acts of cruelty.

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