What tradition is followed in "The Lottery"? What are the benefits and drawbacks of tradition? How do traditions influence whom individuals become? How are tradition and progress interconnected? Use evidence from the story in your response.

The tradition followed in "The Lottery" is human sacrifice. The supposed benefit is a good harvest, while the drawback is the death of a member of the community. In this instance, tradition normalizes murdering a neighbor. Tradition is presented as the enemy of progress.

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In "The Lottery," the villagers follow a very old traditional of choosing a human sacrifice victim every June. This person, picked through a lottery, is then stoned to death by the other villagers. The supposed benefit of this bloodshed is a good harvest in the fall. However, as modern science would have informed these villagers living in the 1940s, a good harvest does not depend on human sacrifice. The drawbacks of the tradition are that the villagers, including young children, are forced to participate in a barbaric ritual of killing a neighbor. For example, we are told that the boys, who are let out of school, gather piles of rocks to throw at the victim.

Traditions in this story are depicted as a force that holds back progress. The people in the town are increasingly uneasy and uncomfortable with this ritual, but it has become so entrenched that it is seemingly impossible to dislodge it from the community. For example, when Mr. Adams says he has heard rumors that "over in the north village they're talking of giving up the lottery," Old Man Warner resists this idea of change by saying,

Listening to the young folks, nothing's good enough for them. Next thing you know, they'll be wanting to go back to living in caves.

The tradition influences individuals in the village to think it is normal and acceptable to murder a friend and neighbor once that person is labeled "other" by drawing the wrong lottery ticket, as happens to Tessie Hutchinson.

The story is meant to encourage us to think about what rituals or traditions we cling to in our society that are unnecessary and perhaps destructive. It especially encourages us to think about practices we ignore because we don't think they could ever happen to us.

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