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The Lottery

Posted in Uncategorized by jgarcia1390 on the March 15, 2011

In the short story “The Lottery” by Shirley Jackson Tuan’s ideas of mythical space are proven once again through symbolism. Tuan states that mythical space can be “a world view, a conception of localized values within which people carry on their practical activities.” (86) Though the things discussed in this chapter may be bizarre or abstract to some of us, for the people in the story it is nothing but customary.
“The Lottery” is set in the square, as the townspeople refer to it, and takes place on June 27th of every year. According to Old Man Warner, we know that it has been around at least seventy seven years. (Jackson 250) Though we don’t exactly know what the lottery entails we do know that it is held in order for there to be a good harvest during the year. As we read on, however, we find that this lottery is held so that the town can choose one person to stone to death as a sacrifice.
When reading the story we see that Jackson uses a plethora of different types of symbolism. The most obvious symbol it’s self is the lottery. The lottery represents the townspeople’s inability to break free of this tradition no matter how barbaric it is and how much they despise having to sacrifice one of their own. This is lack of interest in change is shown when we hear Old Man Warner berating a neighboring town that has chosen to get rid of the lottery. (Jackson 250)
We see symbolism not only in the event itself but in certain objects used in the lottery as well. When holding the lottery, the townspeople take turns taking slips of paper from a broken down black box to determine who they will sacrifice. This box has been used over and over and has rebuilt and hidden when not in use. The fact that people store it in places where it will be hidden is perhaps because they are put off by the fact that the color black symbolizes death and many activities having to do with death.
The characters used in the story are used to symbolize different things in the story as well. Mr. Summers the person who hosts the lottery every year is known for his relatively upbeat personality. His name entails a season that is known for its exuberance and yet it is juxtaposed with an event that ends with a stoning. Mr. Graves, his right hand man, also serves to symbolize the inevitable death that someone will encounter. The relationship between the two symbolizes the time of year that the lottery is held. Everyone in the town knows that when summer comes so does the lottery.
Another relationship that is shown in the story is the relationship between friends, Mrs. Delacroix and Tessie Hutchinson. Tessie is a relatively well known woman among the townspeople and we know so when we see that everyone refers to her by her first name. (Jackson 249) However, when Tessie is picked for the stoning we see Mrs. Delacroix tell her to be a good sport despite the brutal death she is about to undergo. (Jackson 251) The relationship of the two women symbolizes the hypocrisy of the town holding the lottery. Though they may hate having to part take in something so inhumane, they do so anyway.
Any decent human being would find the events mentioned in the story detestable and would never think of having anything like it happen within their town. However, for the people in this town, they know of nothing else. Even though it is apparent that they know what they are doing is wrong they go on about with the lottery like it is just another task.

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