What is the major problem in "The Lottery"?

The central problem in "The Lottery" involves the blind acceptance of a tradition that has been passed down from one generation to the next without a reflective process to ascertain the necessity of such a tradition.

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The central conflict, or problem, in "The Lottery" is that the people blindly accept the traditions of their ancestors without questioning whether those practices are necessary in their own society.

When the story opens, the townspeople seem to be gathering for a rather pleasant community event. The weather is clear and sunny, and the atmosphere is light. However, this gathering is not cordial.

Instead, they have come to sacrifice one of their own. They aren't even quite sure why they continue to do this. The tradition is so old that no one in town, not even the oldest citizen, quite knows the origins of the lottery. When someone comments that in another village, people are considering giving up the lottery, Mr. Warner comments,

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.

To the townspeople, there is some association between the lottery and their quality of life. They are never quite able to put it into words exactly what they are accomplishing or how the human sacrifice supports the goals of the town, yet they blindly follow this tradition nonetheless.

Ultimately, Tessie Hutchinson is selected as the unfortunate soul who will be sacrificed, and even she is willing to attempt to spare herself by trying to sacrifice her daughter instead. Tessie's youngest child, too small to even collect rocks of his own and who is offered "pebbles" instead, participates in the stoning of his mother. We therefore see that this problem is being passed down to the next generation, the town solidifying the importance of the lottery without ever stopping to ascertain the necessity of it.

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