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Essay on The Theme of Toxic Traditions in The Lottery

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“The Lottery” is a short story by Shirley Jackson where you are introduced to the traditions of a small town. It is not a fun tradition like decorating a Christmas tree, it is much darker. Every year the town has something they call a lottery where all the townspeople gather together and one member, typically the oldest male, draws a piece of paper. If that piece of paper has a certain black dot it proves fatal for the family, because one member of the family will be randomly chosen and stoned by the rest of the town. This is a very dark tradition that the whole town participates in, including children.

There are many symbols in The Lottery that can be linked to society today. The biggest symbol, however, is the theme of tradition. “The Lottery” itself is the tradition and it shows that tradition, no matter how toxic or unusual it may be, there will always be people who stick to tradition and never want any change. In the short story a town elder is sitting on the sidelines while families are picking a piece of paper from the box and he is spouting things like “crazy fools” and “Listening to the young folks, nothing’s good enough for them. Next thing you know, they’ll be wanting to go back to living in caves, nobody works anymore, live hat way for a while. Used to be a saying about Lottery in June, corn be heavy soon. ‘First thing you know, we’d all be eating stewed chickweed and acorns. There’s always been a lottery”. He thinks changing the way things are done will only lead to chaos and he thinks to change things is a start to something much worse and soon the new generation will want to change everything and get rid of all traditions. His way of thinking is very toxic and is an example of following something with no knowledge of it and only doing it because its how it’s always been. This is one example of how people, now, follow rules, traditions, or the status quo blindly and without having their own opinion.

Another thing to consider is the fact that the people of the town are still passing the tradition down to younger traditions, and don’t give them a choice if they want to follow this tradition. The children in this story are being taught at a very young age that its okay to continue this tradition. In the story a woman gives a rock to a very young boy, the boy is the son of the mother who was chosen to die. This shows that in the culture this town has most people are more than okay with the tradition, to the point that they will hand a rock to a child to help kill their own mother in a very gruesome way. This plays into the tradition and the danger of not changing ways just because of a tradition. This relates to today because a lot of older generations are stubborn and stick to their ways, and more than that they teach and enforce their thinking onto everyone else, including younger generations.

The final piece of evidence that shows the symbol of tradition and how it can be linked to today’s culture is the fear and compliancy the people have. People can be forced into repeating the traditions they were taught even if they don’t agree with that specific thing. For example, in the story, the family member that grabbed the paper with the black dot was the father. When he revealed he was the one with the mark on his paper his wife, instantly stood by his side, defended him, and asked for a redraw, so the members of the family, even the children, draw papers again to see the new member who will be killed. This time, however, the wife is chosen and unlike how she defended her husband, her husband stays quiet accepting the fact his wife would be killed instead of him. Now if you look at the story through the lens of fear, the story has a whole new meaning. Instead of viewing the town like a bunch of blind idiots who never want change, we can see them, instead, as a town striking by fear and too scared to do anything different or stand up to anything. Today people who know certain things are wrong to remain quiet due to fear.

In conclusion, throughout the story of “The Lottery”, there are several themes and symbols of toxic traditions and blind cowards who do nothing to enact change due to either fear or blind belief. A lot of the symbolism was a direct link to how people act today.

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Essay on the Theme of Toxic Traditions in the Lottery. (2020, December 10). GradesFixer. Retrieved October 17, 2021, from
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