Who is the scapegoat in the story “The Lottery”?

2 Answers

accessteacher's profile pic

accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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A scapegoat is a word that comes from the Bible. In order to symbolically get rid of the sins of the Israelites, a goat was selected and all of the sins of the community were transferred to that goat, who was left to wander in the wilderness, so that the Israelites could remain pure and unblemished, enabling them to stand before God as holy and sinless.

In this chilling short story, the reader comes to understand by the end of the tale that this community every year uses the lottery to select a scapegoat from amongst them as a kind of blood sacrifice to ensure that they will have a good harvest. Note what Old Man Warner says about the traditions associated with the lottery:

Used to be a saying about 'Lottery in June, corn be heavy soon.'

The saying of Old Man Warner clearly links the human sacrifice of one of the villagers with a blood offering meant to appease the gods to ensure a good harvest. In this story, therefore, the scapegoat is the woman who is selected to die: Tess Hutchinson.

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gmuss25 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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In Shirley Jackson's short story The Lottery, Tessie Hutchinson draws the slip with the black dot on it and becomes the symbolic scapegoat of the community. As was mentioned in the previous post, a scapegoat traces its roots to the Jewish tradition of leading a goat into the wilderness during Yom Kippur to atone for the community's sins. Similarly, each year on June 27th, the villagers gather to draw from the ominous black box in order to select the next victim to be sacrificed. Although Jackson does not go into detail, it is suggested by Old Man Warner's comment that the sacrifice will ensure a good harvest. When Tessie Hutchinson is selected, she protests by saying that the lottery is not fair. The ambiguity attached to the annual sacrifice is intentional and connects to the theme of blindly following tradition. Tessie Hutchinson unwillingly becomes the scapegoat of the village when she selects the slip with the black dot.