A short story The Lottery by Shirley Jackson elicited controversy when it was first published in 1948. The short story is based on irony, satire, and humor in driving the theme of the story to the reader. It is foreshadowed in a way that the reader does not know the real motive of the word lottery until the end of the story. The real meaning of the story is based on the motive of the writer to portray hypocrisy, evil, denial, and weaknesses of human beings in the society.
The story is based on a small and close knit village with a population slightly above three hundred. The village is so small that everybody knows each other and tradition is highly valued. The lottery is an annual event, whereby one person is selected from a drawing and stoned by family and friends. It is a tradition that has been practiced for many decades and every member of the village is obligated to participate. Jackson uses a polite and friendly tone in portraying the annual event by portraying the cordial relationship among villagers. The villagers share jokes and laughs, while the event is compared to the square dances and Halloween (Jackson 281). The cordial relationship turns bizarre at the end of the story, whereby the lottery winner has to be stoned to death by fellow villagers.
Hypocrisy is portrayed in the story in the sense that every villager is happy at the event and does nothing to stop the tradition, despite knowing that a violent death is involved. For instance, Mr. Summers is portrayed as friendly towards the villagers, but is hypocritical in leading this evil tradition (Jackson 282). Additionally, every villager fakes enthusiasm towards the event but is fearful. Weakness in human beings is portrayed in the story in the way the villagers feel about the event. The event is violent, but no single villager attempts to object the tradition.
The event is met with resignation as the old man Warner illustrates, “There has always been a lottery.” (Jackson 284). However, little objection is portrayed without much effect when Mrs. Adams says, “Some places have already quit the lottery.” (Jackson 284). Mrs. Hutchinson is a combination of both hypocrisy and weakness that engulf the villagers. She is portrayed as a rebel by turning up late (Jackson 282). Her hypocritical nature is evident when she maliciously encourages others to take their chances (Jackson 285). The weakness in her is portrayed when she objects when her own family draw the black spot, but does nothing until she is stoned to death.
The story is relevant to the society in the sense that human beings are interested in certain activities that are harmful to them and society in general. Individuals tend to follow stories that do not concern them and shun those involved in such activities until the moment when they are involved. The society is full of hypocrisy in the sense that individuals practice activities that they were against in the first place. Individuals condemn those who speak and stand for the truth until they find themselves in need of that truth. They are faced with evils in the society, but do not take any concrete action to change the situation. Human beings are weak in their characters from the fact that they will outwardly embrace a practice to please the public, while in the real sense they inwardly shun the practice.
Jackson, Shirley. The Lottery. Illinois: Dramatic Publishing Company, 1983.