Within Shirley Jackson’s short story, “The Lottery,” there are many underlying themes that raise questions about unexamined assumptions in modern society. One of these unexamined assumptions is the characteristics of human nature found within the characters in the story. Within the story, the villagers are all willing to accept the meaningless and harmful tradition of the Lottery because it is just part of their society. None of the villagers are willing to speak out against this tradition because they want to fit in. This shows the readers that within this story Jackson reveals that a characteristic of human nature is the desire to fit in. None of the villagers want to stand out against the lottery, even though they know it is wrong. They have a strong desire to fit into society and be part of the group, and because of this, they are willing to look the other way. Jackson is revealing her belief that there are people in today’s society who are willing to look the other way and ignore something they feel is wrong, just because they want to be part of the group and want to fit in. It is human nature to allow the desire to fit in overcome the desire to do what is right.
Another aspect of society that Jackson reveals within the short story, “The Lottery,” is the continuation of meaningless traditions. The villagers within the story do not enjoy the tradition, but fear speaking out against it. Tradition is defined as “The handing down of statements, beliefs, legends, customs, information, etc., from generation to generation, especially by word of mouth or by practice” (Dictionary.com). Within the story, the tradition that is celebrated is the annual lottery, in which one villager is stoned to death by the other villagers. The tradition of the Lottery is meaningless and harmful to their society, yet they continue to celebrate it, because that is what they have always done. Through the actions and emotions of the characters, Jackson reveals that she believes that our society is shackled to traditions. This can be seen by the way that many religious Christian traditions no longer signify religious meaning, but rather have been morphed into a meaningless tradition. Easter, for example, is a Christian holiday that has lost its true religious meaning and now serves as a childish celebration for many Americans. This example proves Jackson’s point that we, as Americans, continue to practice meaningless traditions because they have always been a part of our past.
Dictionary.com. “Tradition” Retried 23 Sept 2012.
Jackson, Shirley. “The Lottery.” (1948) Retrieved from http://www.d.umn.edu/~csigler/PDF%20files/jackson_lottery.pdf.