by Shirley Jackson
The Lottery Theme of Hypocrisy
"The Lottery" explores sudden shifts in opinion and loyalties – in other words, hypocrisy. But it's worth asking whether changes in allegiance during the lottery are conscious enough to be construed as hypocrisy: the ritual of the lottery appears to be so naturalized that the villagers can't think rationally or critically about what they are doing. It is only we, as outsiders, who can really confront the madness of this ritual. In fact, it's the earnestness of the villagers that's so particularly frightening. They really seem to have conviction that, because they all drew for it, they have the right to murder a member of their community. (For more on this deeply, profoundly disturbing point, check out our "Character Analysis" of the Delacroix Family.)
Questions About Hypocrisy
- Do you think the characters in "The Lottery" are hypocritical in their relationships with other people in the town? Why are they willing to turn on their friends and relatives because of a lottery drawing?
- What do the different characters in "The Lottery" seem to feel that it the lottery is for? What purpose does it have in the village now? What might it once have accomplished?
- Which characters seem to enjoy the lottery the most? What characteristics do they share? How do they differ from one another?
Chew on This
These characters are too blinded by tradition to see that violence against their neighbors is a betrayal of their emotional bonds.
The purpose of the lottery is now less important than its rote maintenance.