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Shirley Jackson's "The Lottery"

“Am I walking towards something I should be running away from?” once asked Shirley Jackson ("Shirley Jackson Quotes"). In her short story, “The Lottery” all of the characters come together to participate in this “lottery.” Only it is not what most people would think. These characters should really being running away instead of coming together. In the end, one of them does end up running, but does not get too far. Everyone including her own family stones her death as a way to keep the population under control. It is a tradition that they have kept since before anyone can remember. Using Marxist criticism, a reader can analyze Shirley Jackson’s, “The Lottery” by using the aspect of positions of power.
In the short story, The Lottery, Jackson introduces the differences and powers of the certain characters who maintain different levels of power throughout the society, including the low, middle and high categories of people whom each receive different labels and life-styles. “A sudden hush fell on the crowd as Mr. Summers cleared his throat and look at the list.”(Jackson). This quote from The Lottery lets the reader discover that Mr. Summers is a well-respected, knowledgeable man who provides his time for many community events and activities. The silence that fell when he began to speak is showing how Mr. Summers receives respect from his audience. A man that is respected from his town, as in this situation, shows one example of power for a man who is “more high class” in the field of politics. “The wife draws for her husband. Don’t you have a grown boy to do that for you jerry?”(Jackson). Referring back to male dominance, this is an example of the husband in charge of the wife. Jerry was put on the spot, in a way, where he could have had his older son do the job, but instead chooses his wife to do the honorable draw, emphasizing the male’s power over a relationship and family.
“The black box grew shabbier each year: by now it was no longer completely black but splintered badly along one side to show the original wood color, and in some places faded or stained.”(Jackson). The description of the town’s annual box is an example of the power that the box holds on the town and the town’s traditions. The old box had enough power to keep the tradition going throughout all of the years between the time the lottery started until this point and further and for some people, the box still being where it was to that date also kept townspeople coming back. “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). Even though the box was in terrible shape, on the verge of falling apart, the villagers still happily accept the fact of the box being part of the tradition, being the oldest object still standing. The people did not want to add any changes to the tradition and this reveals the power of decision. The villagers have the power to decide on any matter, whether it is changing something for the town or deciding to keep something the same.
Shirley Jackson’s, “The Lottery” can be analyzed using Marxist criticism through the aspect of the positions of power. This short story shows how certain governments and groups of people live and organize their communities. Some people don’t get a say in why they should live and not have to be stoned or die from any other ritual. They choose those that have the least importance or have done something wrong and get rid of them in. It gives citizens of countries like the United States to see how lucky we are to be able to live such free lives. Some rules might be unfair, but many other areas around the world have it much worse.





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