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The lottery

By , Oak Lawn, IL
What if everyone’s fate was decided by picking a piece of paper out of a hat? What if one’s fate relied on whether they picked a blank ticket or one with a dot on it? Instant death came to those that picked a ticket with a dot on it, the lives of those that picked a blank one are spared. This is the case in a monumental short story called “The Lottery” by author Shirley Jackson. In the short story “The Lottery”, a town holds an annual lottery near the end of June. This lottery is different than any other, though, because instead of crossing fingers for winning numbers, families are praying to choose blank pieces of paper. The person that receives a piece of paper with a pencil-drawn dot on it is chosen to be stoned to death in town, including his or her own family. In “The Lottery”, Jackson shows how positions of power are important to the characters that possess them and have consequences for other characters. Tessie Hutchinson, Mr. Summers, and the rest of the townspeople are each examples of this.
To begin with, Tessie Hutchinson is an example of positions of power effecting oneself and other characters in the story. During the lottery, Tessie Hutchinson began to get really nervous when her family was chosen for the second part of the lottery: everyone in her family must choose a ticket, and the one with a dot on it is chosen to be killed. “There’s Don and Eva,” Mrs. Hutchinson yelled. “Make them take their chance!” (Jackson). In this quote, Mrs. Hutchinson demonstrates her fear and anxiety by trying to convince Mr. Summers that he made some type of mistake in the lottery. Mrs. Hutchinson is only concerned about saving her own life at this point. She also previews her terror when she insists, “I think we ought to start over,” Mrs. Hutchinson said, as quietly as she could. “I tell you it wasn’t fair. You didn’t give him enough time to choose. Everyone saw that” (Jackson). The Hutchinson’s chose the paper with the dot during the lottery including the whole town, so in the second part of the lottery it is narrowed down to only the Hutchinson family. When the lottery reaches the second part, the choosing family is aware they will lose one of their loved ones. Mrs. Hutchinson is terrified, so she is trying to make up excuses as to why the lottery isn’t valid, Mr. Summers made an error. This shows the amount of power Mr. Summers actually holds, being able to instill such fear into the citizens of the town. In the story, Mrs. Hutchinson also says, “It isn’t fair, it isn’t right,”(Jackson.) Mrs. Hutchinson screamed and they were upon her. These were Mrs. Hutchinson’s last words as the entire town, including her own family, stoned her to death. At the beginning of the story, Mrs. Hutchinson was cleaning her house when the lottery began, so she was late to the beginning of the lottery. Even though Mrs. Hutchinson was aware of the seriousness of the lottery, she disregarded this knowledge and prioritized cleaning her house. Conveniently, Mrs. Hutchinson was the only one late for the lottery, and in the end she ended up being the one chosen to be killed.
On the other hand, Mr. Summers is a great example of a higher position of power effecting the other characters in the story. Mr. Summers held a higher position because he was the overseer of the black box. He conducts the lottery each year. Each year, Mr. Summers tells the town they will get a new box for the tickets in the lottery, but they never actually end up getting a new box. In the story the narrator explains, “The lottery was conducted… by Mr. Summers who had time and energy to devote to civic activities” (Jackson). Since Mr. Summers conducts the lottery, he clearly holds a higher position than the townspeople. Each year, the life of a civilian lays in Mr. Summers’ hands. Mr. Summers’ position benefits him because since he conducts the lottery, he is exempt for being chosen in the lottery. Each year his life is surely spared. Later in the story, the narrator says, “There as a great deal of fussing before Mr. Summers declared the lottery open” (Jackson). Mr. Summers’ political position is higher than everyone else and therefore he possesses a great deal of power over the townspeople.
Lastly, Mr. Graves’ political position effect himself and the townspeople in the story. Mr. Graves is the postman for the town and delivers all of the mail to the residents. On account of his position as postmaster, he naturally holds more power than the average townsperson. In the story, Mr. Graves asked, “Some of you want to give me a hand?” Two men hesitated (Jackson). Mr. Graves assists Mr. Summers in conducting the lottery, and therefore requires a great deal of respect from the civilians of the town. Mr. Graves, being partially in charge of the lottery, instills fear into people just as Mr. Summers does. This explains why the ‘two men hesitated’ in the quote stated previously. People are nervous around Mr. Graves, whether it’s because of their respect or fear for him. In the story, the narrator describes, “Mr. Graves and Mr. Summers made up the slips of paper” (Jackson). This shows that Mr. Graves is relatively on the same political level as Mr. Summers, being in charge of the lottery which means Mr. Graves, too, is exempt from the lottery. Later in the story, the narrator says, “…proper swearing in of Mr. Summers by the postmaster (Mr. Graves), as the official of the lottery…” (Jackson). This best demonstrates the amount of respect Mr. Graves is required to receive from the residents of the town being the postmaster. Mr. Graves is the only one in the town that has the power to be able to swear someone in. In a normal town, perhaps a mayor or another highly-positioned individual would have completed this task.

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