What is the impact of the Lottery on the children? Do they learn something?

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William Delaney | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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It would seem that the main impact on the children was to teach them that the lottery was an established and honored tradition, something they should carry on as they matured and should pass on to their own children. It appears that children are not exempt from being stoned to death, regardless of how young they may be. The author Shirley Jackson takes pains to show that the children are heavily involved in the proceedings. They will take delight in stoning someone to death.

The children assembled first, of course....Bobby Martin had already stuffed his pockets full of stones, and the other boys soon followed his example, selecting the smoothest and soundest stones.

At their age it does not occur to them that one of them might be the chosen victim in this lottery or that one of them might be stoned to death with the very stones they were now so eagerly collecting. It was always somebody else who drew the black spot. And what fun it was to stone that neighbor to death!

Even little Davy Hutchinson, who is too young to understand the rules, is included in the drawing. 

"Harry, you help little Dave." Mr. Graves took the hand of the little boy, who came willingly with him up to the box. "Take  a paper out of the box, Davy," Mr. Summers said. Davy put his hand into the box and laughed. "Take just one paper," Mr. Summers said. "Harry, you hold it for him."

It would seem that if little Davy happened to draw the fatal paper, his own parents would participate in stoning him to death, just as they would stone any other little boy or girl regardless of age. Fortunately for Davy, it is his mother Tessie who gets the paper with the black spot. Davy will get to participate in stoning his own mother to death. It will be an important learning experience.

The children had stones already, and someone gave little Davy Hutchinson a few pebbles.

Old Man Warner has participated in previous lotteries seventy-six times. Who knows how many small children have been stoned to death in those seventy-six years? Warner must have been a toddler when someone helped him draw his first paper. Having risked his life so many times, and having seen so many men, women, and children stoned to death, has not affected his belief in the importance of this old tradition. Rather, it has only affirmed his conviction--especially since he has escaped drawing the fatal paper so many times.

Shirley Jackson includes many children in her story. Her intention seems to be to show that the lottery can only continue if the children are taught that it is just and necessary. They will become used to the sight of one of their neighbors, or even a member of their own family, being surrounded  like the current victim.

Tessie Hutchinson was in the center of a cleared space by now, and she held her hands out desperately as the villagers moved in on her. "It isn't fair," she said. A stone hit her on the side of the head.

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