What does "The Lottery" imply about traditions and ceremonies?

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Shirley Jackson examines the dangers of blindly following traditions and rituals throughout her short story "The Lottery." While Jackson is not suggesting that all traditions and rituals are negative or threatening, she does illustrate the dangers attached to blindly following traditions simply for the sake of carrying on the custom. In Jackson's short story, the unnamed community continues to follow a brutal ritual, where each citizen is forced to draw a slip of paper and risks being stoned to death by their neighbors if they draw the slip with the black spot on it. Jackson emphasizes that senseless nature of the lottery by mentioning the various aspects of the tradition that were lost to time and the fact that the ritual is based on an ancient superstitious belief. Old Man Warner symbolically represents rigid traditionalists, who refuse to exercise perspective and tolerance while they insist on blindly following the senseless tradition. Tessie Hutchinson's brutal death poignantly highlights the dangers of blindly following tradition as Jackson intended. Her story influences readers to question the nature and function of certain traditions and cautions readers about the dangers of blindly conforming to society's expectations.

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Shirley Jackson's "The Lottery" is a powerful argument against ritual and tradition. She is not arguing that all traditions and ceremonies are inherently evil. What she is showing us is that following a ritual mindlessly can lead people to evil acts. The people in the village clearly have no idea why this ritual is performed every year. They speculate about it, that perhaps it owed its origin to some sort of sacrifice to improve the harvest, but they seem to realize how silly that is. They acknowledge that other villages are abandoning the tradition, but they adhere to it blindly, doing something because it has always been done. We are civilized human beings, who should be able to reason about right and wrong and leave behind foolish and superstitious ceremonies, which is why tribes no longer practice cannibalism and we know better than to throw young virgins into volcanoes to placate the gods. Committing a barbaric act cannot be justified just because it has always been done, nor can it be justified on the basis that our leaders have told us to commit it.

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