Traditions are an important part of any culture, and people throughout history have clung to their traditions because they define who they are as a group and give them a sense of place. The people in the quiet suburban town in The Lottery cling to tradition because they find the idea of change threatening. Conversely, they find tradition comforting. The setting of the story is an ordinary and, in fact, idyllic town where everything is neat and orderly and everything runs smoothly. The townspeople have been conditioned to believe that this idyllic life is because of the lottery. Therefore, giving up the lottery would be like discarding a government that keeps order in the community. It takes a revolution to overturn a government, and a revolution is nowhere in sight for Shirley Jackson’s community. The idea of a lottery suggests that the winner will receive an award, and the townspeople view the winner of the lottery as a martyr that, in effect, rewards the town with continued prosperity.
Tessie Hutchinson expresses horror at the tradition when she realizes that her family has been singled out and that one of her family members will be murdered. However, until she is personally affected, she was as complicit as everyone else to the idea of murder. This attests to the fact that, throughout history and all over the world, people have always been complicit in performing rituals grounded in their cultural traditions; many of those rituals were arguably as barbaric as the lottery. The people in these communities cannot explain why the tradition is important, just that it is. It is ingrained in the consciousness of the people that things are done this way because they always have been done this way. Change is more frightening to them than continuing the tradition.