Assess the most significant moral lesson arising from "The Lottery" by Shirley Jackson.

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

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I think that the most important moral lesson that emerges from Jackson's short story is how the community can represent a source of terror.  The needs to avoid destruction and violence, along with cruelty in the name of community are moral lessons that emerge from Jackson's short story.  Jackson's most compelling moral lessons is how the community and the collective identity might desensitize individuals to the pain experienced by the individual.  Tessie was very content in participating in the lottery when she was a member of the community, a participant in the collective entity.  It is only when she becomes the target of the group does she speak out against the horror of "the lottery."  This becomes one of the most important lessons out of the short story.  It makes sense that this becomes an important theme out of the short story given the historical context in which it was written.  Jackson is writing in a time period where the fear of Communism dominated American society, and a historical context in which the implications of the dropping of the atomic bomb and the concentration camp were only beginning to be appreciated.  It is here where the critique of the community at the cost of the individual becomes one of the strongest moral lessons that emerge out of the short story.

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