“The Lottery” is a short story written by Shirley Jackson. It is narrated through a third person limited point of view. It tells about the tradition of a town who meet every summer for the lottery wherein the males first represent their families in drawing for the lot. Whoever chooses the darkened paper has to bring his whole family to draw the lots and whoever gets the accursed paper will die through stoning. The tradition is done for the belief that after the event, there would be abundant harvest for the townspeople. With the absurdity of the narration, it makes better sense when readers look more closely into the meaning of the setting, plot and symbolisms in the story.
The story is set during summer, specifically, the 27th of June. The day is described to be “clear, sunny with the fresh warmth of a full summer day, the flowers blossoming and the grass are richly green”. The description speaks of a beautiful and promising day which would rather speak of life, joy and fun. However, the introduction seems to be ironic because in the end, one sees that the story is horrific. The setting seems to have been deliberately described as such in order to create an expectation of a beautifully woven story that would end just like the way it started. On the contrary, it has created a greater impact by ending with an unexpected event which is simply unbelievable.
The plot is not logical. The story seems to be so out of this world, one cannot imagine such a tradition to have existed perhaps even during barbaric times. The belief that stoning a person would bring a good harvest is simply ridiculous and senseless. Therefore, just like any other story, one would have to look at the symbolic representations in the story in order to make sense out of it.
As mentioned in the story, the black wooden box represents tradition. The narration reveals that one of the characters have been suggesting for the box to be changed however, it has gone to no one’s ears so that it never was changed. Just the same, there are traditions that men have engaged with which are often requested to be changed but people just seem not to listen or care at all. For instance, it is believed that since the story talks about lottery, it could be safely assumed that the tradition is actually the lottery. Lottery existed for many centuries now and it has changed in many forms but it is still there. The practice cannot be substituted by a productive activity or eliminated because it is a tradition. Nevertheless, just as the lottery has claimed the life of Mrs. Hutchinson who unfortunately picked the accursed paper, lottery in real life also destroy the lives of families. The black wooden box can also symbolize doom and death. When the fate of Mrs. Hutchinson was finally revealed at the end of the story, the wooden box is clearly seen to represent her doom and horrible end.
Stories sometimes call readers’ attention because of the horrible portrayals of circumstances. Authors often use symbolisms not only to make their stories more interesting but to speak more deeply to their audiences. It is their way of telling the readers to listen well and think about their arguments. In “The Lottery”, Jackson achieved these objectives quite effectively. With such goal, readers should then think more critically not only about the things they read but also the things that they see around them.