What are the themes (like blindly following tradition) in "The Lottery" by Shirley Jackson?

Asked on by katz6289

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kwoo1213's profile pic

kwoo1213 | College Teacher | (Level 2) Educator

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There are several major themes in "The Lottery."  One involves violence.  One of the reasons that Jackson wrote the story was to draw attention to the inhumanity of violence.  Jackson believed that society had become so used to violence that they were numb to it.  She wanted to use an extreme example to bring this issue out, hence the lottery winner being stoned to death.

Another theme is tradition, obviously.  While traditions are important in many societies, not all traditions are good ones!  Jackson makes the argument that some traditions are absolutely wrong and cruel and they should be abandoned.  Traditions are deeply rooted, however, and can be very difficult to change or to get rid of because they become a part of a community's heritage and history.  People get used to them, which makes them difficult to get rid of. 

Yet another theme is sexism.  What is odd in this story is that the women do not initially draw...the men do this, yet the women are able to pick once their family is chosen and be stoned to death!  There is the odd dichotomy of traditional female roles vs. women being fair game to be put to death by stoning!  Even the children are fair game. 

"The Lottery" is a story with many serious social/moral implications!

burningsheep's profile pic

burningsheep | eNotes Newbie

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The themes include


-Savagery and Barbarism 

-The cold-heartedness of society (Stoning By Friends and Family)

BTW Delacriox means of the cross in French 

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veronikaz8 | Student, Grade 9 | (Level 1) eNoter

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Answer #2 is wrong. Mrs. Delacroix picks the heaviest stone because if someone throws a heavy stone, it would land closer to the thrower than if they threw a lighter stone. Therefore, she did not want to hurt Tessie, her best friend. And also, this story was written in 1948, which means that the tradition was that men lead their families and it was indeed sexist.

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rileyb | Student, College Freshman | (Level 1) Salutatorian

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Things are not always as they seem; seemingly normal people can do terrible deeds.

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beckanotes | Student, Grade 9 | (Level 1) eNoter

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Actually, the men draw just because its easier than having a random person from each family go up. For then several people from each family may go up, or no one from each family may go up. Its simply to keep it organized.

When the women are "fair game," well, so are the men. Its not as if its a privledge for the men to initially draw.

Another theme, however, is that people's true priorities are often revealed when the pressure is on them.


Tessie’s willingness to sacrifice daughter and son-in-law to have greater chances of survival for herself (turned on family).

Tessie’s friend, Mrs. Delacroix, picks up a stone so heavy she must use both hands.

Tessie’s husband tells her to “shut up” when she is disagreeing with Mr. Summers.

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