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The Lottery by Shirley Jackson

Fear keeps people quiet and that is exactly why Tessie Hutchinson died. In the short story The Lottery, as a marxist critic, Shirley Jackson shows how political, economical , and historical standpoints contribute to the climb up the social ladder. The bizarre ritual to stone somebody each year in order to keep order portrays the need for a democratic society. The lottery represents tradition and in this town tradition is sacred. Throughout the story a reader learns what happens when a new generation doesn’t address old past-times and what can happen in result.
Mr. Summers holds a high political standpoint in the story. Like government officials, he carries mostly all the power and makes the decisions. He runs a coal business which is ironic because it’s a wealthy and powerful industry and he himself portrays a wealthy and powerful persona. When Summers arrives at the gathering with the black box there was hushed conversation almost as if everyone was scared. It doesn’t help that he was holding a black box which is another thing that the villagers are afraid of. In the story Shirley Jackson writes, “The villagers kept their distance, leaving a space between themselves and the stool”(Jackson 1). The mood changed from easy going to fearful just by his presence. Also, the meeting didn’t start until he arrived clearly showing he is a person of great importance and is the one running the show. When Mr Summers asks “Don’t you have a grown boy to do it for you, Janey?” (3) and everyone knows the answer the writer suggests that the people in the town allow him to do the official business of the lottery giving him more power. The postmaster Mr. Graves is another character in the story that is recognized as more powerful. He is one who helps with the regulation of the lottery and his name is symbolic because he makes up the slips of paper that hold the answer between life and death. The person with the black dot on the slip of paper is ultimately getting put into a grave physically & socially below him.
There social classes in the story but they’re easy to split apart. Mr. Summers and Mr.Graves are clearly higher on the social ladder. They both hold jobs that make them more powerful. Summers doesn’t have any family and can dedicate all his time to the coal industry and jobs around the town. Graves is a postmaster who is able to keep the communication between citizens of the town in line. The elderly stick to tradition. The use of the black box is a necessity to keep order within the town. Jackson writes, “Every year, after the lottery, Mr. Summers began talking about a new box, but every yerar the subject was allowed to fade off without anything’s being done” (2). When Summers mentions making a new box he is basically double checking to make sure that everyone discards the idea of change. When hearing about other towns getting rid of the lottery everyone is quick to oppose them. On the other hand, the middle-aged parents are either too scared to speak up or believe that the black box is necessary. Any rebellion with the lottery could result in bad consequences and no one wants to step out of boundary lines. Their children think of the lottery as a game. For example, “Dickie Delacroix eventually made a great pile of stones in one corner of the square and guarded it against the raids of the other boys” (1). They play throughout the day and gather up stones like it’s a snowball fight. The fact that the parents are teaching their kids the rules of the lottery shows just how scared they really are of Mr. Graves and Mr. Summers.
Throughout history there has always been one group of people dominating the other. If looking at the civil war the blacks were suppressed by the whites. They had no right to education, money, or freedom. They sat in the back of a bus and were considered unworthy of a free life. During World War II, the Jewish people we’re put down by the Nazi’s. They were forced into concentration camps and couldn’t survive without depending on what was provided for them. Similar to these events Mr. Summers and Mr. Graves are controlling the lives of the people in the town. Jackson wrote “There had been, also, a ritual salute, which the official of the lottery had had to use in addressing each person who came up to draw from the box, but this also had changed with time, until now it was felt necessary only for the official to speak to each person approaching”(2). The idea that the official, Mr Summers, should only speak is acknowledging that the towns people are second class citizens. They are continuously having regulation and the lives of the people that go against them are getting taken away. The higher class could be considered similar to Hitler and the Ku Klux Klan not because of their views but how they keep them. Summers has a great deal of power just like the other historic leaders. Nearly all of Germany feared Hitler, and the KKK was feared by both blacks and whites. For example, “A sudden hush fell on the crowd as Mr. Summers cleared his throat and looked at the list”(3). This just shows how much effective ness he has on the people and the capability he has to manipulate the system of the box. The town is too scared to speak up and since Tessie Hutchinson tried and failed Summers will just receive more power.
The lottery has been going on for longer than anyone in the town can remember. When things aren’t criticized by new generations, it results in death. The lottery shows how politics, economics, and historical events can decipher social classes. The ending of the story suggests that the people will never get over a dictating lifestyle because of their hesitation to speak up. The result of the tradition allows them to lose their morals and voice for the rest of their lives.





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