Free Critical Analysis Of Shirley Jackson’s “The Lottery” Essay Sample
“The Lottery” presents the horrifying society that used the lottery as a means of ridding the society of some of its members. At a first glance, the title would suggest that the events of the story are positive as when one thinks of the lottery, one thinks of a positive change in one’s lifestyle. The tone shifts dramatically in the story as the Jackson moves from quiet setting to the raucous behavior of the children. The readers see that the contrast in the tone adds to the anticipation of the mood of the readers. Throughout the story, Jackson gives the readers a series of events that changes the mood in the story. These events create a spell-binding journey that impacts the mood of the story.
In the story, the syntax, tone, and diction add to the setting and events of the story. The story sequences the words that convey the meaning. Mrs. Dunbar suggests that “she can’t run at all.” The syntax demonstrates the way that the words are structured and shows the importance of the dialogue in the story. The language in the story is simple, poetic and gives the reader the chance to understand the events easily. The meaning behind the Old Man Warner’s conversation about the lottery is clear even as his informal language draws the reader to an understanding of the impact of farming on the people. The lottery in the story hurts the characters as it takes their lives. Jackson’s “The Lottery” creates unusual and different moods for the readers as the story portrays a variety of feelings that foreshadows the events and adds anticipation in the readers mind.
At the start of the story, the setting “of June 27th was clear and sunny, with the fresh warmth of a full summer day,” (TL, p.1) and brought on a festive mood for the readers. The communal style setting becomes apparent as the village gather in the bank in the morning. One anticipates that the mood will remain festive or as the villagers mingle and laugh with each other. Jackson begins with a simple description of the easy-going relationship that exists between the villagers. Additionally, there is growing anticipation as Jackson shows the laughter that one associates with the happiness that comes with winning the lottery. But, the progression in the story leads to mystery and suspense. The happiness or the light mood in the story changes quickly as the families call everyone together. The silence that follows create an awkward and apprehensive mood as the whole town is silent and no one is speaking.
The black box symbolizes the changes in the mood in the story. The moment the villagers see the box and Mr. Summers, the mood changes as they are aware of the sequence of events that will follow. The box represents the physical connection that the villagers have to their history and traditions. By changing the box, the society would change the connection that they had with the past. Jackson explicitly states that the tradition of the black box. The villagers use the relic to perpetuate the unmerciful and violent traditions. The black box only functions for two hours every June, but impacts the lives of the villagers in many ways. Arguably, the villagers connect the box to the terror that it represents through the lottery.
The setting helps to build the mood and foreshadows the events in the story. The festive events at the start of the story sets the reader to thinking that there is good things to come, but the reader sees the opposite events as the story unfolds. Jackson establishes the setting quite early and this is important to showing the reader what the typical day is like in a small town. The reader infers that it is summer as school just let out. Jackson stresses the brilliance and beauty of the day. The violent ritualistic and brutal traditions as is clear in the stoning Mrs. Hutchinson. She defies tradition. Farming represents the symbolic cycle of life. At the start of the story, the men speak of the rain and the planting season, and the tractors and the taxes.
The symbols in the story further add to the effect on the harvest. One realizes that the ritual of the harvest connects to the ritual of the lottery. In fact, the success of the harvest depends on the common ritual of the lottery. The cruel stoning of the individual to death supposedly brings about the success of the harvest, but not all of the members of the society believe that the ritual is a cruel act. But, Mr. Summers disregards the feelings of the others in the community, and continues with his procedure. Similarly, the children in the story are important to the events. Jackson creates a clear and simple image of the “boisterous playing” of the children and the tone of lightness that these children bring. Arguably, the children symbolize the happiness that the society feels on an average day. Davy is taught the traditions early as someone gives him small stones to keep the tradition going.
The main theme in the story is that of cruelty and violence in individuals. The Lottery addresses the cruelty of the villagers as they maintain the traditions in the society and in the world. The tradition of the lottery is quite old, but the three hundred villagers maintain these traditions. For a number of individuals the procedure is unfair and in these instances the readers easily adopt the tense mood and the anger that emanates when Tessie holds the slip of paper that says she is the chosen one. She is afraid and desperate to live as she lashes out in verbal accusation of the cruelty of the act. Still, the traditions continue and show mankind’s ability to victimize their counterparts in the name of with-holding the traditions.
In concluding, Jackson’s story reflects the incongruities in the daily life in the story. The reader becomes angry by the harsh tone that Jackson presents after the happiness and light moment at the start of the story. “The Lottery” represents a number of themes and the most common theme is the cruelty of mankind towards the society. The mood changes according the actions in the story and the setting adds even more as it leads the readers to the unfortunate and tragic death of the female in the story. Jackson explores the incongruity of the daily occurrences in the life of these individuals and the evil ways in which human can be towards each other. The familiar American setting of simple farming individuals does not detract from this modern –day parable. The most dominant theme of the experiences of the dark side of human characteristics and the importance of ritualistic behaviors surfaces as the individual gives in to the pressure of the society and the people in the society.