What traditions do we embody in our everyday life that go unquestioned like the Lottery?

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William Delaney | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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This is a very good question and one that is especially intriguing because it applies to all of us and to our everybody lives. It is, however, a question that is difficult, if not impossible, to answer because it contains the word "unquestioned." There may be dozens of traditions, practices, and beliefs that are part of our everyday lives and are taken for granted because they have gone unquestioned like the deadly lottery in Shirley Jackson's story. Once a tradition, such as slavery, starts to be questioned, it is the beginning of the end for that tradition.

In Jackson's fine story some individuals are beginning to question the practice of stoning one man, woman, boy or girl to death every year. Old Man Warner is vehemently opposed even to talking about doing away with the town's lottery, but he is the oldest person in the community and will soon be dead, even if he never draws the "winning" slip in the lottery. There is only one individual in the story who shows concern about the fate of anybody but herself. That is an unnamed girl in the crowd who says, "I hope it isn't Nancy." That is, Nancy Hutchinson. This ray of human compassion is a ray of hope. It is significant that the girl who thinks about her friend Nancy is very young herself. Hers is only a tiny voice in the crowd and is hardly noticed, even by the reader, but it may represent the future.

There are some people who are guided by "felt values" in our society. They are the ones who make the majority aware of such evils as pollution, urban sprawl, deforestation, second-hand tobaco smoke, and other things that were taken for granted not long ago.

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