What are the conflicts in "The Lottery"?

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One conflict in the short story "The Lottery" concerns Tessie Hutchinson versus her small village. Tessie challenges the brutal ritual, but her neighbors force her to participate. There is another conflict involving the northern villages, who have ended the ritual. The wider, underlying conflict concerns tradition versus modernity, and Mr. Summers is in conflict with the villagers over replacing the black box.

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The main conflict of the short story is Tessie Hutchinson versus her village, which subscribes to the brutal tradition of the lottery. Tessie Hutchinson believes that Mr. Summers did not give her husband enough time to draw a slip from the black box and publicly criticizes the lottery. Despite her argument, Tessie becomes the victim of the lottery and is stoned to death by her family and neighbors. Another conflict is between the village and surrounding towns, which have put an end to the brutal ritual. Mr. Adams states that the northern villages have foregone the tradition, and Old Man Warner responds by calling them a pack of "crazy fools."

The debate between the villages exposes another conflict, which is tradition versus modernity. The lottery symbolically represents outdated traditional views. The ritual was founded on a superstitious belief, and the majority of citizens are staunch traditionalists, determined to carry on the senseless lottery. Rational audiences recognize the lottery as a senseless ritual, which does not impact the crop yield or improve life in the village. There is also a conflict between Mr. Summers and the community regarding the black box. Mr. Summers wants to replace the black box, but the villagers do not want to upset the tradition. Tessie Hutchinson also experiences an internal conflict during the lottery. Tessie does not want to participate in the lottery but feels compelled to participate in the annual ritual by drawing from the black box.

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A main conflict in the story is superstition versus rationalism. Although the story is set in a New England village in the mid-twentieth century, an old superstition persists about the need for a human sacrifice to insure a good harvest. This flies in the face of modern science and rationality, a reality of which most of the villagers seem uncomfortably aware.

This discomfort with the superstitious tradition is manifested in several ways. First, the villagers are unwilling to fix or replace the splintering black box in which the lottery tickets are kept. It is as if they hope that when the box falls apart, so will the ritual. Second, they have also pared the ritual down, treating it as an event they want to get over with as quickly as possible. Finally, one villager hopefully notes that other villages have abandoned their lotteries, an idea quashed by Old Man Warner.

The villagers maintain a tradition that, though barbaric, is part of life as they know it. The story shows how difficult change can be.

Another conflict is between self and other. This is played out through Tessie Hutchinson. She is fine with the lottery year after year, not questioning its fairness when other people are chosen to be stoned. However, when it is her turn to die, she suddenly finds the tradition unfair and unacceptable. The story encourages us to regard traditions that hurt others as also potentially harmful to us.

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The predominant type of external conflict found in Shirley Jackson's classic short story "The Lottery" is considered a Man vs. Society conflict. One minor example of this type of conflict is Mr. Summer's failed attempt at gathering support to replace the old black box. Despite his suggestion, the villagers revere the tradition so much that they refuse to upset the slightest aspect of the ritual by making a new black box. Therefore, Mr. Summer's attempt to replace the black box and the subsequent backlash from the community is considered a Man vs. Society external conflict.

Another Man (Woman) vs. Society conflict is Tessie Hutchinson's protest after her husband draws the marked slip of paper. Tessie Hutchinson is portrayed as the village scapegoat and she desperately challenges the barbaric lottery ritual by insisting that the entire ceremony is not fair. Tragically, the villagers strictly adhere to the senseless, violent tradition and proceed to stone her to death.

An example of an internal conflict takes place when Tessie Hutchinson hesitates to draw her slip of paper. Tessie disagrees with the entire ritual and purposefully hesitates before drawing the slip. Her reluctance to draw the slip of paper and defiant disposition indicates that she is struggling with the decision to select a slip of paper or refuse to participate in the tradition. Her struggle to decide what course of action to take at the critical moment is an example of an internal conflict.

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There are a number of conflicts within the short story, "The Lottery." 

First, there is the conflict among villages. Some villages have stopped the lottery.  This particular village is more conservative and they resist.  Old Man Warner calls those who gave up the lottery a "pack of crazy fools."  This conflict is not explicit, but we can imagine that there is some pressure to stop the lottery.

Second, there is also conflict among the citizens of the town. When it was found out that Bill Hutchinson "won" the lottery, Tessie said it was not fair.  She stated that her husband did not have enough time to pick the paper he wanted.  Her protest grows when she is found to have the black mark.  In fact, the story ends with her words:

"It isn't fair, it isn't right," Mrs. Hutchinson screamed, and then they were upon her.

Finally, if we look at the story from another perspective, we can say that there is conflict between tradition and the present world.  Tradition keeps the villagers conducting the lottery, even if they want to give it up.  We can say that tradition is oppressive. 

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What is the main conflict in "The Lottery"?

The main conflict in the lottery is person versus society. For the person selected by the lottery, there is seemingly no hope of evading their terrible fate, and each member of the community is expected to participate regardless of their view of the lottery process.

From the author's initial description of the gathering of townspeople, it seems as though they are coming together to attend a normal community event, such as a barn raising or square dance or perhaps to deal with some civic matter. The reader is not given any significant hints as to the real purpose of the lottery, and it is only revealed in the final lines of the story that this community gathering is actually a sacrificial ritual. The "winner" of the lottery will be stoned to death by their neighbors, friends, and family.

The strange sense of normalcy with which the townspeople approach this ritual highlights the strength of the community's traditional beliefs (which represent "society" in this individual vs society conflict). The lottery does not shock nor offend them—it is simply the way things are done and the way things always have been done. This unquestioning adherence to tradition is exemplified by Old Man Warner, who derides a village up north that is rumored to have given up on the lottery.

Though Tessie Hutchinson is ultimately the individual who comes into conflict with society, it's important to note that she is perfectly willing to participate in the ritual up until her chances of being this year's victim escalate. Once her family is selected in the first drawing, she begins to complain that the process is unfair. When she is finally chosen as the lottery’s assigned sacrificial candidate, she, of course, no longer wishes to participate at all. Her protestations fall on deaf ears, however, and society emerges victorious in this conflict as the townspeople descend on their victim.

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What is the main conflict in "The Lottery"?

A story must be dramatic in order to be interesting. It must contain conflict in order to be dramatic. "The Lottery" is certainly interesting, so it must be dramatic and must contain conflict--but it is very hard to see how there is any conflict between any of the characters or any institutions. For instance, there is no interaction between Old Man Warner and Tessie Hutchinson. They don't even talk to each other. When Warner does talk he does not sound like a protagonist but like a parrot mindlessly repeating what he heard others saying long ago.

I suggest that the main conflict in the story is between abstract principles and not between characters. The conflict might be described as past versus present, tradition versus enlightenment, superstition versus reason, or ignorance versus truth. The protagonist in this conflict would be the past, or tradition, or superstition, or ignorance. The antagonist would be the simple truth, including the truth that human sacrifice doesn't make the corn grow.

The people in the story are present because it is obligatory. The man in charge of the drawing is anxious to get it over with so that everyone can return to the normal business of living. Something is forcing all of them to participate in this deadly lottery even though each privately dreads being chosen and probably dreads the guilt he or she will have to live with for a long time after the stoning. The antagonist would be the slow progress of understanding which is destined to win in the end. Two of the characters remark that lotteries such as this are being given up in neighboring communities. They are the voices of reason. When the Hutchinson family is chosen, a girl in the crowd is heard to whisper, "I hope it isn't Nancy." Hers is the voice of human compassion. And finally when Tessie gets the fatal black spot, she voices the plain and obvious truth.

"It isn't fair, it isn't right," Mrs. Hutchinson screamed, and then they were upon her.

For the time being, the protagonist--superstition, tradition, ignorance--is still in command.

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What is the main conflict in "The Lottery"?

The central conflict in "The Lottery" is Individual vs. Society, showing the individual's struggle against collectively accepted norms. Tessie Hutchinson refuses to accept that her family, and then she herself, has been chosen for the Lottery, but her protests are ignored and overpowered by the collective assurance of the ritual's acceptance.

Tessie Hutchinson was in the center of a cleared space by now, and she held her hands out desperately as the villagers moved in on her. "It isn't fair," she said. A stone hit her on the side of the head.

Old Man Warner was saying, "Come on, come on, everyone."
(Jackson, "The Lottery," classicshorts.com)

Old Man Warner represents Society, the purpose which is condoned by the village as normal and even virtuous. Tessie represents Man, the individual who fights against norms but, in this case, is destroyed by them. Her fight comes from a selfish, personal desire for her family to be spared by the Lottery; since the society of the village expects every member to be equally invested in the outcome, her rebellion is quickly put down. The outcome of the story shows that Society, in this case, is victorious, and there is no sign that the Individual has had much effect on other opinions.

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What is the conflict of the story "The Lottery"?

In Shirley Jackson's celebrated short story "The Lottery," the central external conflict is considered an individual versus society conflict. In Jackson's nondescript rural town, the community adheres to the violent tradition of the lottery. Every June, the community gathers in the town square to participate in the annual lottery. According to tradition, the person who draws the slip of paper with the black spot on it from the ominous black box is brutally stoned to death by their family and neighbors. In the story, Tessie Hutchinson plays the role of the community's scapegoat when she tragically draws the black spot. Tessie is helpless against her violent neighbors, who blindly follow tradition and adhere to the brutal ritual.

Tessie Hutchinson is something of an outcast, and she initially forgets that the lottery is scheduled to begin on June 27th. She arrives late and is the only member of her community to question the lottery's methods. When her husband draws the black spot, Tessie argues that Mr. Summers did not give Bill enough time to properly choose a slip of paper. Once Tessie draws the black spot, she insists that the ritual is not fair and continues to dispute the brutal tradition. Tessie is depicted as an individual who is powerless against her society's adherence to the senseless tradition. Despite her pleas and arguments, Tessie is silenced by her community and becomes the scapegoat. She cannot defend herself against the overwhelming majority, and society has the upper hand. Tessie’s outspoken nature and willingness to challenge her community’s brutal, senseless tradition illustrate the individual versus society conflict in the story.

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