In "The Lottery," what are the inferences that can be drawn   from the statements of Old Man Warner, the behavior of the participants, and the possible effects such a lottery would have on a town...

In "The Lottery," what are the inferences that can be drawn   from the statements of Old Man Warner, the behavior of the participants, and the possible effects such a lottery would have on a town and its people?

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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One of the most elemental inferences that can be drawn from Old Man Warner's statements in "The Lottery" is that the town's tradition has gone on for some time without much in way of questioning.  When Old Man Warners dismisses the idea of "giving up the lottery," one can infer that the lottery is a time honored tradition:

“Pack of crazy fools,” he said. “Listening to the young folks, nothing’s good enough for them. Next thing you know, they’ll be wanting to go back to living in caves, nobody work any more, live hat way for a while. Used to be a saying about Lottery in June, corn be heavy soon. ‘ First thing you know, we’d all be eating stewed chickweed and acorns. There’s always been a lottery,"

The inference from Old Man Warner's statements is that tradition can be quite powerful and persuasive.  They are forces that repel the idea of change.  The traditional element is what guides so many of the townspeople to accept something that, on face value, would offend so many basic human sensibilities.

The same inference about the importance of tradition that can be drawn from Old Man Warner's statements apply to the behavior of the participants. Consider Tessie's first words as she rushes from being late:

 “Clean forgot what day it was,” she said to Mrs. Delacroix, who stood next to her, and they both laughed softly. “Thought my old man was out back stacking wood,” Mrs. Hutchinson went on, “and then I looked out the window and the kids was gone, and then I remembered it was the twenty-seventh and came a-running. ”

The inference that can be drawn from Tessie's remark that she remembered "it was the twenty seventh" speaks to how the lottery has become part of the town's traditions.  This inference can be further drawn from how Mr. Summers begins the lottery in saying that "guess we better get started, get this over with, so’s we can go back to work. Anybody ain’t here?”  The inference that can be drawn is that the lottery is a time honored tradition, almost a formality that goes without question.  The inference about the lottery based on the behavior and words of the townspeople helps to solidify the belief that the lottery is a part of the town's tradition and is almost a formal and storied part of it.

One of the possible effects of the lottery on the town and its people is the presence of individuals who voice change.  One example of this is how Mr. and Mrs. Adams both speak of townships that have surrendered the lottery practice.  The practice of the lottery tradition has impacted some voices to speak out against it.  Naturally, when Tessie's family becomes targeted, her voice becomes one of the most nasal and most shrill against the lottery practice. I think that the inference that Jackson wishes to leave the reader with is the idea that there can be voices of change even in the most embedded of conditions.  However, individuals must be willing to embrace a philosophy of change and reform in order to see these changes to their logical consequence. Tessie speaks out because she is targeted and as a result, her voice is silenced. The inference is that change is very difficult to actualize and can only be accomplished when individuals have the courage to initiate change.  This courage is lacking in the story's setting, but can be realized in our own worlds if we have the courage that the characters in the short story lack. 

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