What is the author's message about traditions in "The Lottery"?

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Traditions should not be maintained past the point that they stop making sense. 

Sometimes traditions are continued just because they are traditions.  The point of this story is that to do something just because it is tradition is madness.  Although many traditions are harmless, some clearly are not.  The tradition of choosing one random villager to stone to death each year is not a harmless one.

The town’s against-all-common-sense adherence to tradition can be seen in to the symbolic three-legged stool and black box.  Both need to be replaced. No one ever gets around to doing it.  Why?  They have had them so long!  They are tradition.

Every year, after the lottery, Mr. Summers began talking again about a new box, but every year the subject was allowed to fade off without anything's being done. The black box grew shabbier each year: by now it was no longer completely black but splintered badly along one side to show the original wood color, and in some places faded or stained. 

The same is true of the three-legged stool.  They remain the same, or close to the same, year after year—box and stool.  The town won’t give up the box and stool, and they won’t give up the lottery.  The suggestion of giving up the lottery is scoffed at and reviled.

Old Man Warner snorted. "Pack of crazy fools," he said. "Listening to the young folks, nothing's good enough for them. Next thing you know, they'll be wanting to go back to living in caves, nobody work any more…”

As far as the people of the village are concerned, things have to be as they have always been because doing anything different is too difficult to even consider.  There is a mob mentality at work here.  Tradition is so strong that the older individuals enforce it on the younger ones until they become the older ones, and it never dies out.  The author's message is that it is our responsibility to speak up against this and fight traditions that are harmful.

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How does Shirley Jackson's "The Lottery" comment on the dangers of blindly accepting harmful traditions? 

"The Lottery" shows that when you blindly accept harmful traditions unnecessary cruelty follows.

In the story, a New England village maintains an old tradition in which one person from the community is sacrificed under the superstitious belief that their death will help the crops to grow. As a result, every June they run a "lottery" in which one person is randomly chosen to be stoned to death.

Although some of the villagers are increasingly uncomfortable with the lottery, as evidenced by the neglect of the black box that holds the lottery tickets, they are unwilling to abandon what has become an ingrained ritual. Many of them, like Tessie Hutchinson, have so accepted it that they don't question it — until they are faced with becoming the victim, at which point it is too late.

The story urges us to raise rational questions about doing things the way they have always been done, especially if these traditional ways are destructive. Jackson makes the point that if we don't work for positive change, outmoded and harmful beliefs and practices will continue to go on.

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How does Shirley Jackson use the concept of "The Lottery" to critique those who mindlessly conform to tradition?

Shirley Jackson's short story "The Lottery" is about a town that does an annual lottery to determine who should be stoned to death. The morbid ending is definitely a twist for readers, who are tricked into thinking that the lottery gathering is a fun, festive annual tradition. It turns out that the lottery is neither fun nor festive; however, it is a tradition that the people of the town do year after year without knowing exactly why they do it. This is confirmed in a brief conversation involving Old Man Warner, who hints that the lottery used to have something to do with the corn harvest. Even the old man of the town doesn't know the true reason the lottery process began, but he adamantly supports the notion of doing the lottery for no other reason than following tradition. Mr. Adams mentions that some towns are giving up the lottery, and Old Man Warner flatly states that those people are fools.

The story forces readers to have to wrestle with who exactly are the foolish people. Is it the people that give up tradition, or is it the people that continue to follow a tradition that is clearly amoral, evil, pointless, and outdated? The entire story calls for readers to examine traditions and question whether or not the traditions are still valuable or if they are being followed for no other reason than to follow the historical precedent.

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