The theme, or central idea, of "The Lottery" is the need to examine the traditions we follow and to abandon or radically modify those that are harmful. We shouldn't stick to a tradition, the story shows, simply because it has always been followed.
In the story, the residents of a small New England village seem like ordinary farm folk from the middle of the twentieth century, but they adhere to a barbaric tradition. Every June, they hold a lottery to chose a human sacrifice. This person is then stoned to death by the other village residents. This blood spilling was at one time thought necessary to ensure a good harvest in the fall.
The residents live in the scientific age, but they cling to this old tradition because it is what they have always done. They are increasingly uneasy with it, but they fear change even more. In many ways, they try to repress consciousness of it during the year. They let the black box that holds the lottery tickets splinter, and they move it from place to place....
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