The Lottery Questions and Answers
by Shirley Jackson

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

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The unpredictability of life

All of the townspeople agree to participate in the lottery, but there is a general feeling of goodwill surrounding the event that suggests that no one really expects to personally draw the condemning paper. Flowers bloom profusely, the green grass creates a peaceful backdrop, and even Tessie Hutchinson herself arrives a bit late, explaining that she "clean forgot what day it was," her laughter that follows suggesting that she has no fear of being killed that day. The odds are definitely in her favor, but she is shocked when first her family is chosen and then she herself is determined to be the very unlucky lottery "winner." The lottery shows that even with the best odds, life can throw unexpected—and sometimes devastating—curve balls.

Human hypocrisy

Everyone gathers without complaint that one of the townspeople will die that day. They rationalize human death as a trade of sorts; sacrificing one person equates to a better harvest for everyone else. Tessie...

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hfinegold | Student

Shirley Jackson's "The Lottery" explores a variety of themes surrounding society, obedience, and tradition. The piece was written shortly after the second world war, which offers crucial historic and social context for the work. During the conflict, large populations were swayed by propaganda and superstition to participate in something most people would consider unthinkable under normal circumstances.

This is especially borne out in Jackson's treatment of the theme of complacency. What's most striking about the violence in the story is not that it happens, but that it happens as such a matter of routine. In the story, the townspeople gather in somewhat warm spirits. They assemble as though they are attending a town hall meeting, greeting each other warmly, casually socializing, and behaving without any obvious fear.

As the event progresses, each member of the town dutifully performs their role in the lottery selection without questioning the process. Jackson notes that "the people had done it so many times that they only half listened to directions," emphasizing the blind complacency and routine obedience of the members of the town. Each is willing to perform their assigned tasks without questioning them, because the power of tradition, the inertia of mob mentality, and the allure of a great reward–in this case, a plentiful harvest–are too great.

It's only when the threat begins to narrow to a more specific target that we begin to see resistance and fear. This enforces themes of chance, vulnerability, and myopia that would have been particularly relevant when the story was written–many of the horrors of World War II affected victims selected only by the random chance of their heritage. Shirley Jackson's treatment of the slow emergence of fear in "The Lottery" can easily be interpreted as a direct criticism of this tragedy. What's happening is horrible, but the townspeople don't begin to object until the events start to impact them directly.

bradleyzhao107 | Student

The 3 themes I think in the lottery is:

1. Fear

2. Hope

3. Justice

ik9744 | Student

Themes can be:

  • Custom and Tradition
  • Victim and Victimization
  • Sex Roles
burningsheep | Student

The themes include


-Savagery and Barbarism 

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

BTW Delacriox means of the cross in French 

humnameer | Student

The many themes of "The Lottery" are...

  1. Death
  2. Fate
  3. Family
crazygirljojo22 | Student

The many themes of "The Lottery" are...

  1. Death
  2. Fate
  3. Family


veronikaz8 | Student

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.

samueltan95 | Student




rileyb | Student

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

beckanotes | Student

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.