The Idea of Human Nature in Marigolds by Eugenia Collier and The Lottery by Shirley Jackson

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Words: 1264 |

Pages: 3|

7 min read

Published: May 14, 2021

Words: 1264|Pages: 3|7 min read

Published: May 14, 2021

One of the greatest mysteries in the human psychology is the idea of human nature, the idea that humans share similar characteristics that explain our reasoning behind our choices and morals. Two pieces of literature that explore this concept are 'The Lottery' by Shirley Jackson and ‘Marigolds’ by Eugenia Collier. Through symbolism for ‘The Lottery’, imagery for Marigolds, and irony for both, they explain how one aspect of human nature, fear of change, affect what humans hold on to and how they fear what they do not understand.

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In ‘The Lottery’ by Shirley Jackson, the concept of humans fearing change is most shown through imagery of the black box, Old Man Warner, and the surrounding towns. On the surface, the black box seems like a sign of change for the town, its “surface growing shabbier each year; by now it was no longer completely black but splintered badly”. The tradition is dying out, bust the people refuse to act on it. Most of the people do not agree with the traditional, but their fear of change as well as the elders of the community such as Old Man Warner telling the community that they should not, they will not adapt to a different time period. On that note, Old Man Warner is the symbolic “voice in the back of your head” for the village, persuading them to continue practicing the cult-like ritual of the lottery. He does this by just speaking his thoughts, calling the surrounding villages a, “'Pack of crazy fools”, but also through the fact that he is the oldest man in the town influenced the ideas and thoughts toward the lottery. Furthermore, the towns that surround the lottery directly represent change, due to them moving on and changing for the better. This upsets the people as well as Old Man Warner, saying, “Next thing you know, they’ll be wanting to go back to living in caves, nobody work any more, live that way for a while. Nothing but trouble in that”. The towns represent people who move on, where as the town that still participates in the lottery is stubborn, but also frightened by what change might bring. Overall, The Lottery uses symbolism to show how persuasion and fear can affect what traditions we hold on to.

In “Marigolds” by Eugenia Collier, Lizabeth's fear of changing from a child to an adult with compassion is shown throughout the story with various types of imagery such as the first encounter with Miss Lottie, the argument that her parents have, and Lizbeth eventually destroying the marigolds. First of all, the encounter is a blatant explanation of who Lizabeth is: a child. She says that “she was still child enough to scamper along with the group over rickety fences and through bushes that tore their already ragged clothes”. Why would she want to change? She enjoys her life as it is, and when people are content with what they have, they are more afraid to take the chance to change their life. So, later that day, when she happens to over hear an argument between her parents, in which the gender roles are reversed, she is put into an entirely new situation that she cannot avoid. She says, “The world had lost its boundary lines. Her mother, who was small and soft, was now the strength of the family; her father, who was the rock on which the family had been built, was sobbing like the tiniest child. Everything was suddenly out of tune, like a broken accordion”. What happens when animals are put into a new environment? They must adapt. Change. In this case, Lizabeth's situation is no different. So, this puts Lizabeth in quite a state. Why would she change with how much easier it is to be blissfuly innocence and ignorance than to have compassion? All of these emotions swirling in her head, so to escape, she goes and does what she used to to as a child with her friends. What she did when she was innocent, and when she was unaware of her family's state. She goes to Miss Loties and completely destroys the Marigolds. Collier recalls, “She leaped furiously into the mounds of marigolds and pulled madly, trampling and pulling and destroying the perfect yellow blooms. The fresh smell of early morning and of dew-soaked marigolds spurred me on as She went tearing and mangling the marigolds”. This attempt at retaining her innocence does not succeed, and she changes from a girl to a woman. In total, Lizabeth's story is a shining example of how humans will try to fight against change, but in some cases, it is a lost cause.

Both ‘The Lottery’ and ‘Marigolds’ use different literary devices achieve the idea that humans fear change, but both use one to convey their point: irony. In ‘The Lottery’, most of the citizens of the town are neutral about the lottery-until it happens to one of them. The one victim that the reader encounters is Mrs. Huchension, whose last words are, “It isn't fair, It isn't right,'' when she clearly didn't have a problem before. The people each year continue to tell themselves, “Ahh, it won't be ME this year”. This creates a false sense of security for the townsfolk and coupled with the fact that if nobody speaks up about stopping this tradition, plus the fear of changing a tradition that's been practiced for over 77 years, why would the people change? But what's ironic about the situation is that all of that gets thrown out the window for the person that is chosen. They avoid the problem due to their fears until directly confronted about the problem which in this case is the lottery. On the other hand, the irony in Marigolds is mostly based on the fact that the steps Lizabeth's takes to avoid her transformation from child to adult lead her their, as this is a change that cannot be avoided. Soon after destroying the marigold, she says, “That violent, crazy act was the last act of childhood.” She came there to to remind herself of her innocence, but when she went to that garden, she went in as a girl and came out as a woman she also says, “Innocence involves an unseeing acceptance of things at face value, an ignorance of the area below the surface. In that humiliating moment I looked beyond myself and into the depths of another person. This was the beginning of compassion, and one cannot have both compassion and innocence.” She was afraid of changing, but she had to accept it, which is where this story differs from ‘The Lottery’. Overall, both short stories explain how humans are more prone to avoid change if we are not faced with it directly, whether that would be getting stoned to death, or a destroyed garden with a broken woman in it.

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‘The Lottery’ by Shirly Jackson and ‘Marigolds’ by Eugenia Collier, both use certain literary devices to make a point about human nature. For ‘The Lottery’, symbolism showed how people are scared to more on, as well as irony to show people ignore change unless directly confronted by it. In ‘Marigolds’ fear of change is exemplified through the imagery of Lizabeth's struggle to maintain innocence while growing up, with the irony that shows how some change, no matter how hard humans try, can not be avoided. In total, both stories explain through irony, symbolism, and imagery, that humans fear change, and through that fear, people tend to hold onto traditions as well as life styles, slowing down the functionality of the human race.

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Dr. Charlotte Jacobson

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The Idea Of Human Nature In Marigolds By Eugenia Collier And The Lottery By Shirley Jackson. (2021, May 14). GradesFixer. Retrieved March 4, 2024, from
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