In "The Lottery," why do the townspeople participate in the lottery?

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This is a very good question. In fact, it might be said to be the principal theme and question of Shirley Jackson's famous story. Why do the townspeople continue to participate in this gruesome lottery year after year when they should realize they are acting only under the influence of the grossest kind of ignorance and superstition?

The story is apparently set in the heartland of America. Since the lottery is intended, like some ancient Aztec ritual involving human sacrifice, to assure a good corn crop, it would seem to be taking place in the "Corn Belt," which runs from eastern Nebraska, through Iowa, and into Illinois. Most likely the exact location of this small town is in Iowa. An unusual feature is that these people seem so isolated from the rest of America. The story seems to be set in the present, but the townspeople seem to know nothing about the outside world. They are like the inhabitants of H. G.Wells' story "The Country of the Blind" who are completely isolated in their...

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