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June was a time of harvest in our village. At this time, the fields were white with corn, sorghum and millet. June was not a month like any other, at the same time, the annual lottery was held. The event was well prepared as everyone in the village, old and young, was to take part. The event was organized by family. This year, the event would take a little longer due to the increase in population, since a few young men had been married, adding to the number of families. The villagers were gathered at the village square, the place where I had been told that our forefather’s hut once stood, for the second day. The day before was a day of preparations while the material day marked the climax of the event, which was revered more than the new-year.
As usual, we assembled at the city square before the parents. My brothers carried as many pebbles in their pockets as they could. My younger brother carried three round stones in her pocket and held one more in his hand. As for us girls, one or two would do, for formality-the rule was that none was to be left behind. Our fathers followed. They always came before the women. It was a great dishonor for a woman to arrive the scene of a meeting before a man. The men discussed all sorts of issues, from croaking of frogs to yawning of hyenas. They narrated how the season was better than the last three or four, how the government had escalated taxes and how prolific their cats were. The women followed. They came chatting, explaining their skills, discussing the best at grinding maize, the fiercest at chasing baboons and so on. This was supposed to be my fourteenth lottery, as that was my age. However, it was the eighth that I could remember. I were too young to comprehend the earlier ones. Time had moved really fast, the memories of the previous lotteries were still fresh.
Within no time, the field was packed to capacity and Mr. Summers walked in with a huge black box. He was the only man in our village who had visited the coast, who had worked with the railway corporation and whose home had a cassette player. We all feared him more than we respected him, mainly because he could not watch a child get “spoilt”, though he had none of his own. His wife was always by his side, known for whispering suggestions to his husband’s ear. Mr Graves followed him as usual, with an old, rickety, three-legged wooden stool. He was Mr. Summers’s personal assistant. The box was rested on the stool. Mr. Summers began folding pieces of paper and placing them in the box. The lottery could begin any time. I tried to imagine, “whom will it be today?”
As I was lost in thoughts, Mr. Grave was busy explaining the relevance of the lottery to us. He stated how the fools in the North had abandoned the blessed practice, they would soon see the impact of their misbehavior. He explained how the practice had evolved, from wooden planks that people would mark to the fairer papers that would be disposed after each lottery. “These instructions are more boring today than ever,” I thought. I had listened to them for the last for years, yet the man and his senior keeps repeating them. I was eagerly waiting for the time to come, when we would see the person who would “win”, and be a legend the whole year till next June.
Mr. Summers soon began calling the role. The families that were not represented had sent apologies. The leaders of the families drew papers from the black box, beginning with himself. Some men brag how they had drawn sixty, seventy, and eighty times in such events. When Mr. Dunbar was called, his wife drew on his behalf-he had an apology due to his faulty rib. I was lost in thought as people were called on after the other. My heart skipped a beat when Mr. Hutchinson was called: that was my dad, it was time for my family! To my surprise, his paper had a black mark at the center. My mother sighed so loudly that I heard her. Abita, my friend since childhood, whispered to me, “be courageous, sweetheart.” Everyone in my family marched forward, my mum, my three brothers and four sisters. Nine blank papers were folded into the box, followed by the one that dad held. Each of us picked one after they were thoroughly shuffled. We slowly opened them, my mom had the one with a mark. Within no time, the entire crowd surrounded her, she cried, describing the whole practice as unfair. I watched her in agony while she wept her life out as pebbles landed on her. She was the one not to eat of the harvest.
Originally, “The Lottery” was by Shirley Jackson and published in 1948. The story was written at a time when America was undergoing massive cultural transformation. A lot was being borrowed from other cultures, though some indigenous practices were being underscored. The fallacious practicing of some rituals in American small towns and the fresh memories of the Second World War might be the inspiration of Jackson as he wrote “The Lottery” Anderson, (40).
The narrator presents an annual ritual in a conservative village, which has been left out as the surrounding abandon the ritual, the lottery. In this ritual, several blank pieces of paper were placed in a box, alongside one with a mark. The family whose representative picked the marked piece would repeat the process alone and the member who picked the marked piece would be stoned to death. It is important to note that the box and the stool were brought by two men compared to the 300 members of the village, showing hoe the impact of two influential figures drove the town. The stones are used as symbols to represent the deadly nature of some rituals while stoning to death symbolizes the hardships and agony undergone by members of the society who find themselves being victims in the ritual. Despite all this, the narrator explains that “the original paraphernalia for the lottery had been lost long ago, and the black box now resting on the stool had been put into use even before Old Man Warner, the oldest man in town, was born. Mr. Summers spoke frequently to the villagers about making a new box, but no one liked to upset even as much tradition as was represented by the black box” (Jackson, 2). This reveals that no one in the village, including the eldest, had seen the original equipment used in the lottery. The people have all through followed the ritual blindly.
In the story above, a few changes have been made. To begin with, the story is set in an anonymous village, unlike the original which is set in an anonymous small town. This change is done because villages are perceived as the strongholds of cultural values, mainly with conservative inhabitants. The narrator in the original story is not attached to the story. The narrator in the new story offers first-hand information in the first person, so that that the reader is directly connected to the narrator. She is a girl who suffers directly from the impact of the ritual. The fateful lottery left her orphaned an in deep agony, as stated, “I watched her in agony while she wept her life out as pebbles landed on her.” This, also, offers the narrator a chance to present her thoughts and feelings, bringing the reader into the narrator’s mind.
In the original story, the affected family has five members, while the new one has ten members. This is done add to the immediate impact of the ritual: leaving eight children without a mother while even her own children had prepared to stone whoever carries the day. What they did not know was that their own mother was the one.
In the new story, Mr Summers is presented as an informed member of the society, who had travelled much, worked with the government and had a cassette player, thus had a glimpse of the outer world. Ironically, he is the leader of the ritual. Instead of civilizing the society, he is the symbol of barbarity. Another change is Mr Summers’ attitude towards discipline. He did not watch any child getting “spoilt,” possibly meaning that he never spared the rod. He earns s respect from children by caning them, instilling fear in them. A striking surprise is that he has no child, thus disciplines the children around him vicariously as his own. Like in Socrates’s allegory of the cave, the villages that had abandoned the practice are deemed mistaken. As Tumolo (78) explains, those who have a better the world are deemed mistaken by those still perceiving forms. Out of ignorance, Mr Graves condemns the transformation as he states, “they would soon see the impact of their misbehavior.”
Unlike the original story, the modified story concludes with a reason for the ritual: that one person must die before the harvest, so that he/she could not enjoy the harvest. Having prepared the fields and taken care of the crop till maturity, the victim is stoned to death when the harvest is just around the corner. The reason why the fateful “winner” of the lottery has to die before eating of the harvest is highly questionable, which was not addressed through the story-which means that the narrator was ignorant of the significance of the lottery. This further unmasks the cruelty of the ritual.
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