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Character Symbolization in The Short Story "The Lottery", by Shirley Jackson

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The Lottery Character Symbolization

When one reads a story they often look for character development, traits, and symbolization to help them better understand the context. In the short story “The Lottery”, by Shirley Jackson, she helps the reader better understand the story by using vast character symbolization through the characters of Tessie Hutchison, Old Man Warner, Mr. Summers, and little Davy Hutchison which helps the reader feel more connected to the story. The winner of the lottery Tessie Hutchison holds a lot of meaning and symbolization in her character. Tessie states when being late for the lottery event that, “Wouldn’t have me leave m’dishes in the sink now” (Jackson 2). The lottery is a hugely important event for everyone in the community. Therefore, the importance of Tessie showing up late stating how her dishes were more important than arriving on time to this event shows not that she does not care, but that it does not hold as much importance to her as it does for the rest of the community. This widely sets her apart from the rest as a person who does not follow social norms. Tessie also states at the end of the story after being announced as the winner of the lottery that, “It isn’t fair, It isn’t right” (Jackson 4).

The fact that Tessie argues against being the winner of the Lottery and tries to express to her peers that this is a mistake, one could draw in conclusion that this shows her being against the event. One could also argue on the manner that she is just angry and upset for winning and that any other person may have acted the same way if chosen, but one can see from the very beginning that the lottery does not mean to her what it does for the others. This is just another fact that shows how she does not fit in with social norms. In the end, Tessie being stoned can be seen as a representation of what happens to one for being different and not wanting to conform with societies rules. Another character that Jackson uses as a large symbol is Old Man Warner. Warner states to a friend after hearing of villages nearby talk of giving up the lottery that, “Pack of crazy fools… ‘Lottery in June corn be heavy soon… There’s always been a Lottery” (Jackson 3).

Warner can be seen as a symbol for the complete blind compliance to the tradition. He believes above all that this is and always has been the right thing to do. Just as stated in the quote above he believes that giving up the lottery is setting the village up to fall back into primitive times, which one can see is actually quite ironic considering the tradition itself brings out the most savage of human traits. Warner is one of the worst villagers with his reluctant beliefs to never give up the tradition. He urges the villagers to begin the stoning at the end of the story, and criticizes anyone who does not take it seriously. On the opposite spectrum as to what Tessie symbolizes, comes from the character Mr. Summers. Jackson states in the beginning of the story that, “Mr. Summers began talking about a new box subject was allowed to fade off without anything being done” (Jackson 1).

Mr. Summers as stated in the beginning of the story puts on the event every year, coordinates it, and prepares everything including the black box. He can be seen in one’s eye as the leader of the whole event. The lottery is important for everyone in the community, but it is especially important to Summers. He wants to change the style of things to become more modern which can be seen as a way of conforming the tradition to fit into their current society better, so it will keep on going for the years to come. Jackson also states that, “Mr. Summers had been successfulin having slips of paper substituted for the chips of wood that had been used for generations” (Jackson 1). Little by little Summers pushes his changes and as this quote shows even one has been accepted by the community. With this information about Summers, and his ideology towards the lottery one can infer many things about him. Such as, if in the future of this village the ritual did not work rather than giving it up as some villages have done, Summers would begin to push his modernization of the tradition even more and keep it going. This makes him like Old Man Warner, one of the worst individuals in the village.

Lastly, it is good to consider the character of little Davy Hutchinson who is the son of the victim of the lottery Tessie Hutchinson. Jackson states before the stoning of Tessie began that, “Someone gave little Davy Hutchinson a few pebbles” (Jackson 4). Little Davy can be seen as another victim of the awful tradition. He is too young to understand his actions or understand what is going on, yet he is still handed pebbles to throw at his mother. His pebbles are not there for harming Tessie but to make him equally responsible for the consequences that come from stoning a person to death. Everyone in the town must have a part in the ritual no matter what age. Little Davys innocence is snatched away by this awful tradition and in the end, he can be seen as not only another victim but a symbol of just how twisted and evil this ritual is. A good story does not only need nice flowing material to keep the reader intrigued, it also needs good character development and in some cases symbolization. These traits are useful to help the reader connect and understand the context of the story. Shirley Jackson’s short story “The Lottery” uses all of these aspects especially character symbolization to help the reader better understand this awful tradition and just what happens when one does not conform to societal norms.

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Character Symbolization In The Short Story “The Lottery”, By Shirley Jackson. (2020, January 03). GradesFixer. Retrieved August 5, 2021, from
“Character Symbolization In The Short Story “The Lottery”, By Shirley Jackson.” GradesFixer, 03 Jan. 2020,
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