"Gambling with the future": A history with and without tradition. Comparison of two short stories and their themes. Shirley Jackson's "The Lottery" and Thomas King's "Totem."

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In many literary works, history is a core theme. Such is the case in Shirley Jackson's "The Lottery" and Thomas King's "Totem". Both stories' themes stress the importance of being critical of history. Each story, however, takes a different approach on the treatment of this theme. "The Lottery" suggests one should question history and tradition, and perhaps it is time to move on or change. In "Totem," the importance of remembering one's heritage and past is the intended message and theme. More specifically, the theme stresses the importance of remembering the Native People of Canada who were once so abundant in number. They are a large part of Canada's heritage, and are very rich in culture and tradition that should not be forgotten.

In Jackson's "The Lottery," the characters in the story place great emphasis on the matter of tradition. The plot follows a small village of closely related and well-acquainted people who refuse to let go of past traditions.

One such tradition they perform is a ritualistic practice, which they refer to as "the lottery." This lottery to which they refer, is not the typical kind one would expect. Rather, in this practice tickets are drawn from "the black box" to determine which of the village people was next to be stoned to death. The protagonist of this story, Tessie, ends up being the victim to this lottery, at which point her previously "positive" approach to this ritual changes to a more negative standpoint.

In "Totem," King takes a slightly different approach on the matter of tradition. This story is centered around a Canadian museum/art gallery, which is dealing with a strange issue where totems keep re-appearing and disrupting the peace. All measures the museum takes to eliminate this problem are futile. There...