The Lottery Essay

When Shirley Jackson wrote “The Lottery” she received many letters from many horrified readers who were shocked by the seemingly realness of the story. Although the short story was fictional, the characters and situations the story symbolized were very much real. Jackson uses this symbolism to help convey her message: traditions should not be allowed to be unexamined and unchanged. One character, for whom the symbolism is so deep that she dies as a result of it, is Tessie Hutchinson. Tessie Hutchinson’s symbolism is quite literally her death.She ends up being killed as a result of the Lottery, but it is no coincidence that it is she who is the one to pull the slip of paper with a mark of coal. Tessie bears the name Hutchinson, the same name as religious reformer Anne Hutchinson of the 17th century who was banished from the Massachusetts colony for her upsetting of religious tradition in that colony.

In the contemporary story of “The Lottery,” Tessie upsets tradition in a less extreme fashion than Anne, but is forced to pay the price with her life. Her first offense to tradition is arriving late to the lottery drawing, claiming she, “clean forgot what day it was. (783) Unlike the reader at the time, Tessie knows the lottery is the day when someone from the community is selected to be stoned, and it is unlikely that she completely forgot it was the day of the lottery. Tessie Hutchinson falls victim to the lottery because her husband pulled the slip of paper for the household. When she sees her husband Bill has drawn the slip with the fatal mark on the paper, she quickly snaps, “you didn’t give him time enough to take any paper he wanted.

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I saw you. It wasn’t fair. ” (786) By making the biggest stir, she then symbolically indicts herself already.Tessie goes as far as to pass the looming death sentence off on her daughter Eva (who has married and draws with another family). Readers and critics alike questioned Jackson’s choice of a macabre topic.

Jackson’s only intent was to have people take a closer look at the traditions they followed. They might not be as extreme as the stoning of an innocent person, but they may however, be just as senseless. “The Lottery” is riddled with symbolism. For example, the people with the most influence over the lottery, and more symbolically traditions, are the most well to do.

Mr. Summers was very wealthy from running the coal business. Mr. Martin ran the local store, and Mr. Graves the post office.

The symbolism is the deepest for Tessie only because she dies. The people from the town who were idly taking part in the tradition could have stopped or at least said something in protest. Instead, people, like Old Man Warner, were resistant and stubborn to change.

Tessie’s own little son, Davy Hutchinson, was given “a few pebbles,”(787) so that he too could participate in the tradition. Just before the lottery was completed, Mr.Adams even remarked, “that over in the north village they’re talking of giving up the lottery. ” (785) If more people had said something, or if people had started to decide that this tradition was merely a relic of old ideas and beliefs, this annual tragedy could have been averted, and Tessie’s life saved. The symbolism of “The Lottery” runs deeper than the character Tessie Hutchinson. Jackson, in her short story, deliberately sequenced events so they would symbolically send a message to the reader. As a result, Tessie is forced to bear the brunt of the symbolism for unexamined and unchanging traditions throughout time.


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