Why are the lotteries in neighboring towns mentioned?

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Some of the other towns in the vicinity are seriously thinking of discontinuing the tradition of holding lotteries. Apparently, the younger generation has moved away from the idea of human sacrifice; it no longer appeals to them (for some bizarre reason). This highlights how isolated the town in the story is set to become. The world outside is changing, but there's no sign that this particular town is ready to follow suit.

At the same time, mention of neighboring towns also shows that this grisly tradition is by no means restricted to just one place; lots of other places in the neighboring area have been practicing human sacrifice for generations. This reinforces the general point that Jackson is making about small-town America and what she sees as its dangerously restrictive mindset.

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As the villagers assemble for the annual June lottery, they talk quietly among themselves. One subject they discuss is other towns considering giving up their lotteries. As Mrs. Adams says,

Some places have already quit lotteries.

Mentioning what is going on in neighboring villages serves several purposes. First, it shows that this village does not need to be continuing this outdated and barbaric practice. Change is possible, as evidenced by the courage of other towns. Second, by talking about ending it, people are indicating they are unhappy and uncomfortable with the tradition. What Mrs. Adams is saying, in effect, is that she wishes her village would abolish the lottery.

It is also significant that it is Old Man Warner, who has been around for a very long time, who objects to the idea of getting rid of the lottery: it seems that the older generation, set in its ways, is behind the continuation of this cruel and pointless ritual.

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The town has been holding a lottery every year for at least as long as Old Man Warner can remember. This year will make it seventy-seven times in which the good citizens have mercilessly stoned one of their number to death. However, the killings may have been going on for over a century. It seems unlikely that no outsider would have heard about these murders and reported them to the police. Shirley Jackson attempts to account for this plot problem by establishing that all the neighboring townships are doing the same thing every year, although a few may have given up their lotteries and a few others are talking about stopping them.

"They do say," Mr. Adams said to Old Man Warner, who stood next to him, "that over in the north village they're talking of giving up the lottery."

So the town which serves as setting for "The Lottery" is buffered by all the towns around it. Those other people are well aware that somebody is getting killed there every year, but they would not report it to the police or mention it to any outsider because they are just as guilty themselves. We actually get the picture of a vast region in which all the towns are stoning citizens to death on a regular annual basis.

Old Man Warner is irate when he responds to Mr. Adams because he knows that the tradition of these death-lotteries is losing popularity, and he enjoys them and looks forward to them. He has escaped so many times that he feels immortal. Maybe he feels that by escaping each year he has been guaranteed another year of life! He probably knows more about the state of affairs in the surrounding region than Mr. Adams or anybody else.

Even if a town officially abolished their annual lottery, the citizens would still keep the other towns' guilt a secret because they would have too many skeletons in their own closets. Some of these towns must have law enforcement officers, but it must be the case that these sheriffs, or policemen, or constables, or whatever they are, are participating in the lotteries and the stonings themselves.

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