Structure and symbolism in The Lottery

At this point, if the reader has discerned all those ominous hints subtly embedded in the idyllic atmosphere and the shadow that many villagers have lost their flesh and blood in the annual ritual, at last, when Mrs Hutchinson is chosen and dies screaming in the storm of stones, there should not be any real shocks. The reader is only led to ask: What makes people keeps such rituals even though they know it is meaningless; and to consider the significance of the stool, which supports the present day box of lottery. Dunbar, Watson and Hutchinson all the victims, not of hatred or malice, or primitive fear, but of the primitive ritual itself.

Superimposed upon this powerful body of tradition is the long and old history in its own right. Nevertheless, no matter how powerful it is, it should be indefensible before enlightened man who has freed himself from barbarities and superstitions of the past. Unfortunately, man always fails to reconsider and to examine the already perverted traditions. Therefore, the stool, which supports the lottery box, is the symbol of man’s unexamined and unchanged meaningless superstitions and traditions. With the last symbolic intention clearly revealed, one may understand the deeper significance of the second, below the surface story.

More than developing a theme which deals with scapegoating, or the human tendency to punish the innocent and often accidentally chosen victims for our sins, the author has raised these lesser themes to one compassing, comprehensive, compassionate, and fearful understanding of man trapped in the web spun from his own need to explain and control the incomprehensible universe around him, a need no longer answered by the web of old traditions. Man, Shirley Jackson says, is a victim of his unexamined and hence unchanged traditions which engender in him flames otherwise banked, subdued.

Until enough men are touched strongly enough by the horror of their ritualistic, irrational actions to reject the long perverted ritual, to destroy the box completely—-or to make, if necessary, a new one reflective of their own conditions and needs of life—-man will never fee himself from his primitive mature and is ultimately doomed. Miss Jackson does not offer us much hope—-they only talk of giving up the lottery in the north village, the Dunbars and Warsons do not actually resist, and even little Davy Hutchinson holds a few pebbles in his hands.

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