In "The Lottery," who holds authority in the town?

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Shirley Jackson does not tell the reader who is in charge of the town in her story "The Lottery." What the reader does know is that Mr. Summers is in charge of the lottery event and proceedings. It is unclear if he has any official government leadership role....

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The lottery was conducted—as were the square dances, the teen club, the Halloween program—by Mr. Summers, who had time and energy to devote to civic activities.

The above quote makes it clear that Mr. Summers is in charge of the lottery. That line cracks me up every single time that I read it, though. It says that Mr. Summers conducts all of the civic activities because he has time and energy for them. I too would have the time and energy if being in charge of those things made me exempt from the lottery. I would do an awful lot of things if it guaranteed I could never be stoned to death.

Mr. Summers is instrumental in changing the "chips" that the lottery uses. He convinces everybody that strips of paper are better than the wood pieces that were used when the village was small. Based on pieces of evidence like that, it's clear that Mr. Summers is the main man in charge of the lottery.

Because so much of the ritual had been forgotten or discarded, Mr. Summers had been successful in having slips of paper substituted for the chips of wood that had been used for generations. Chips of wood, Mr. Summers had argued, had been all very well when the village was tiny, but now that the population was more than three hundred and likely to keep on growing, it was necessary to use something that would fit more easily into he black box.

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In "The Lottery," Shirley Jackson does not name a single individual as the leader of the town. We can suppose, however, that Mr. Summers plays an important role in the town's governance because he conducts the lottery every year. He is a leading figure in civic life and, aside from the lottery, also organizes the town's other activities, like its square dances and the teen club. Mr. Summers is also a successful businessman who owns and operates the town's coal business.

It is Mr. Summer's responsibility to mark one slip of paper with a "black spot," which indicates that a person will be stoned. It is also his responsibility to stir up the papers inside the black box and to oversee the drawing of the lottery every year. To be bestowed with such responsibility suggests that Mr. Summers is the only person who can be trusted to carry out the task. 

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In Shirley Jackson's "The Lottery," who controls the town?

Superstition and tradition control the town. People increasingly dislike the lottery, which ends in the violence of a human sacrifice. Mr. Adam even mentions that other local villages have given up their lotteries, but in this particular village, the force of tradition remains strong.

The lottery is based on the superstitious idea that a human sacrifice is needed for a good harvest to follow. The saying is, according to Old Man Warner,

Lottery in June, corn be heavy soon.

The splintering state of the lottery box and the tendency of people to want to rush through the ritual show that its usefulness is wearing thin and that people no longer put too much faith in it. Nevertheless, the old-timers like Old Man Warner pooh-pooh the idea of abandoning it, fearing that if the lottery is dropped, the villagers will

all be eating stewed chickweed and acorns.

Until enough people stand up and say "enough," the inertia of superstition and tradition will keep the barbaric practice going.

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In Shirley Jackson's "The Lottery," who controls the town?

While some would argue that men control the unnamed town in "The Lottery," they merely play a more dominant role in the story than do the women. Ultimately, tradition controls Shirley Jackson's fictional village. No reason is ever given for the continued practice of choosing a scapegoat each year, but as the ritual is carried out, Jackson describes in detail how closely the townspeople follow past each custom associated with it. It even takes place in a setting--the Town Hall--where other traditions such as the Halloween program and teen club occur. Similarly, the objects associated with the lottery are viewed as almost sacred, and even though a new box is needed, when Mr. Summers mentions it,

"no one liked to upset even as much tradition as was represented by the black box."

By allowing tradition to control the town and its inhabitants, Jackson demonstrates humanity's tendency to deify customs and to go along with mob mentality.

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