Plot and central idea in Shirley Jackson's "The Lottery"

Essay by sandgirl1973University, Bachelor'sA+, January 2004

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Shirley Jackson's, "The Lottery" concerns a small town's annual lottery drawing and the grim circumstances that ensue. In this short but disturbingly profound piece of work, Shirley Jackson communicates to the reader the theme of scapegoatism along with its implications concerning traditions.

In the village where this lottery takes place, we find many familiar elements: a post office, a grocery store, schools and a coal mine. In this village, Mr. Summers owns the coal mine, so his business has made him the wealthiest man in the village. Mr. Summers also controls the annual lottery. He is somewhat uncomfortable with his authority but has chosen to carry on with the yearly tradition.

The order in which the lottery drawings take place emphasizes who does and who doesn't have power in the village's social hierarchy. Men or working sons draw for their families. The few exceptions involve death or illness.

Only then is a wife permitted to draw. It is evident that although everyone eventually participates in this drawing (children included), women are disenfranchised from the village social structure. As the villagers anxiously wait for the lottery to begin, the young boys rough play and gather piles of stones, while the girls socialize in their circles, watching the boys.

Agriculture is the main staple of this village and a great emphasis seems to be placed on the bountifulness of crops. This is reinforced by Old Man Warner, a long time resident of the town, when he cites the expression, "Lottery in June, corn be heavy soon." There is timid talk by Mr. and Mrs. Adams of nearby villages doing away with the lottery, but the notion is quickly abolished when Warner calls these new thinkers "a pack of crazy fools." He sarcastically suggests that perhaps they would be...