Traditions And Small Town Values In The Lottery By Shirley Jackson

Superior Essays
Traditions and Small-Town Values
Shirley Jackson’s “The Lottery” is a shocking tale of tradition and the horrifying results when are taken to the extreme. The author’s word choice, setting, and overall tone used in conveying the story sends a powerful message to the reader. The style and diction used by Jackson to create a familiar and comforting setting and tone in her tale of senseless violence both brings the violence of human nature closer to home and reveals the darker nature of tradition, however comforting it might seem. The Lottery was published in 1948, shortly after the Second World War. At this time, many Americans had heard of the crimes against humanity committed across the globe during the war and were content to think that such
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Her vivid descriptions of this ‘Leave it to Beaver’-esque setting bring to mind many traditions of American culture in the 20th century. From the women wearing aprons to the men being ‘the head of the households’, readers are reminded of the oft-times glorified and simple traditions of ‘old-time’ American life. Because these images are firmly within the American cultural lexicon of yesteryear, we see no issue with them. We may even find comfort in this idealized view of such suburban life. However, in the story, there are other traditions that the town has. The less-familiar traditions of the town in the story would shock and horrify most readers, simply because they are not used to it. Jackson’s combining of both familiar and bizarre tradition calls into question the contentment we have with traditions that seem normal to us, no matter how out-of-date or unnecessary they are. For example, there is really no need for women to be washing the dishes in the kitchen all day, as Mrs. Hutchinson was in the beginning, or for them to be considered less-than in the traditional marriage, but many people even today see this as a tradition that should be upheld because we were brought up with this tradition. It is ‘normal’ for us. The villagers, particularly Old Man Warner, feel the same way about the Lottery. As Amy A. Griffin says “Because there has "always been a lottery," the villagers feel compelled to continue this horrifying tradition” (44-45). The pairing of some familiar and accepted traditions of American life with the absurd and horrifying traditions of the story’s village demonstrate how tradition, when we stop looking at it through rose-tinted glasses, can truly be seen as ridiculous, superfluous, or even extremely

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