What does the story imply about traditions and ceremonies?The story "The Lottery" by Shirley Jackson.

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pmiranda2857 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The story implies that traditions and ceremonies are extremely important to the survival of the town as a whole.  Even though no one remembers the origins of the lottery, they cannot imagine not holding it on a yearly basis.  It is an ingrained ritual that will not be easily abandoned.  The older members of the town, such as Old Man Warner, who has witnessed 77 lotteries, is adamant about continuing to hold the lottery.  He is an example of how a meaningless tradition is clung to just because it has always been that way.

This town is superstitious about doing away with the lottery, afraid that if they abandon it that something bad will happen to the town.

According to the following passages, the lottery has taken on a life all its own, no one is willing to challenge the authority of the lottery.  There isn't anyone who wants to make such a decision as to why the lottery is important, or when and if it should be done away with, but there are plenty of people in the town who are uncomfortable with the ritual.

"The original paraphernalia for the lottery had been lost long ago, and the black box now resting on the stool had been put into use even before Old Man Warner, the oldest man in town, was born. Mr. Summers spoke frequently to the villagers about making a new box, but no one liked to upset even as much tradition as was represented by the black box." (Jackson) 

"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." (Jackson)

Tessie Hutchinson, who is chosen as the winner of the lottery questions the legitimacy of the whole process, but no one cares.  Mrs. Dunbar, one of her neighbors, shows her disdain for the tradition by choosing only small stones.  While Mrs. Delacroix, another neighbor, shows her primitive instincts, by picking up the biggest and heaviest stones flinging them upon Tessie Hutchinson with enthusiasm.



mtaylor4088 | Student


Traditions are an important part in any religion, family, or community, whether it is a new one that has been recently made or one that has been around for hundreds of years. Traditions are kept alive for many reasons. Some traditions are kept to hold families and friends closer together. It is a bonding experience that unites the closest of people. Another reason tradition remains around for so long may be because of superstition. To break such a tradition would bring bad luck or perhaps evil. For many, however, tradition is kept just for the sake of tradition. One may not understand why things are done a certain way or are held is such a manner, but it is what has always been, and so tradition will continue on. Religious tradition tend to bring together family, friends, and the community; for example, a holiday such as Christmas or Thanksgiving. These holidays become extremely important to families that possibly do not see each other as regularly as they would like to. Not all traditions are made for celebration, but still manage to unite people. Traditions, such as a funeral, bring together more than just family members, but friends and acquaintances as well. On a slightly larger scale, traditions like the 4th of July bring together family and friends, as well as the rest of the community. In the short story The Lottery by Shirley Jackson, a lottery is held each year in the center of the village, bringing together the entire community. They gather between the post office and the bank. The women talked amongst themselves, gossiping and conversing away. Their husbands gathered also, telling jokes to one another and discussing taxes, rain, and tractors. The tradition of the lottery, (along with the tradition of gathering in a specific place within the seemingly small village) brings neighbors and friends together, uniting them with a common interest and purpose. Tradition is also kept sometimes for mere superstitious beliefs. Rituals such as making a wish on a shooting star is believed to bring a person good luck, or have a wish somehow granted. The Lottery left subtle clues about why their tradition is performed. Old Man Warner, the town's oldest living man, talks down about other towns that have given up on the tradition of the lottery. He states there was a saying: "Lottery in June, corn is heavy soon". This reference shows the town believes (or believed) that this tradition that they hold bears some kind of luck for good farming. The whole tradition would be based off of the superstition that by having the lottery on the same day in June every year, a heavy amount of crops would grow. Basing tradition on some sort of superstition is actually quite common, especially in religious or small, isolated places, such as this particular village. Although tradition can be a good thing in many ways, sometimes the reasoning behind the tradition is lost. This tradition is continued nonetheless, merely for the sake of keeping the tradition alive. Mr. Adams, one of the townsmen and Old Man Warner indulged in a conversation about the neighboring villages surrounding their own. Mr. Adams states that the northern village has been talking about giving up the lottery. His wife chimes in to tell of the other villages that have already rid themselves of the tradition.