Traditionalism And Modernism In Shirley Jackson's The Lottery

Superior Essays
If someone were to mention winning the lottery, more often than not, one would have vivid pictures of their dream mansion sitting on the lake or of that beautiful mustang pulling out of the garage. In modern day 's standards, winning the lottery is something to be ecstatic about, but this is not the case in Shirley Jackson 's shot story "The Lottery." The story follows a small town, which is currently having their annual lottery. Until the conclusion of the story the reader isn 't entirely sure what the townspeople are drawing for, but the reader can pick up on the tension and the fear the townspeople have. After all the names are drawn the short story ends with Tessie being stoned to death. This makes the reader have several questions such …show more content…
Throughout the story it is explained that the lottery has taken place annually for several decades. However, it is at the point now that the lottery has been going on for so long that no one actually remembers why it was started to begin with. The only hint as to the original purpose of the lottery is given to the reader by Old Man Warner. Coulthard states that, "[Old Man Warner] is the only villager who seems to believe in the supposed original purpose of the sacrifice: " Lottery in June corn be heavy soon," he intones" (1). This alludes to the lottery 's purpose is so that the crops will be abundant that year. The theme of modernism versus traditionalism can be seen best through the characters in the story. For example, tradition is best represented by Old Man Warner. Old Man Warner is shown to be a veteran because he states this is the "Seventy seventh year I been in the lottery" (Jackson 240). In the novel Mrs. Adams brings up that other towns have stopped doing their lotteries for various reasons. Old Man Warner responds to this by shouting "Pack of crazy fools," [...] "Listening to the young folks, nothing 's good enough for them" (Jackson 240) This goes to show that Old Man Warner is very firm in his beliefs, and as stated by Shields, "[Old Man Warner] views them as necessary and good" (5). Next, the idea of modernism, which is best represented by Tessie and by some of the younger persons in …show more content…
As mentioned in the story, all of the original lottery participants have died out, and they, in a sense, took the purpose of the lottery with them to their graves. Not only has the purpose been warped and almost entirely forgotten but "the original paraphernalia for the lottery had been lost long ago[...]" (Jackson 234). The fact the there is no meaning to the lottery anymore and that the ritual style lottery has continually been forgotten and manipulated will eventually lead to a major conflict somewhere down the line due to the generational gap. Essentially this town as well as other towns are legally murdering an innocent person every year simply because that is the way it has always been. Even in the short story people and neighboring towns are beginning to question why they continue to randomly select an innocent person and execute them each year. If one person will step and question the lottery 's significance, then there is a chance change can take place. Other people will begin to fall in line and begin questioning this barbaric tradition they have held for so long. However, it can be argued the townspeople could potentially "win" the lottery and be executed or the town could turn on them for being against tradition, but people can die. Ideas

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