by Shirley Jackson
The Lottery Theme of Tradition and Customs
"The Lottery" tells the story of an annual tradition practiced by the villagers of an anonymous small town, a tradition that appears to be as vital to the villagers as New Year celebrations might be to us. Yet, subtle hints throughout the story, as well as its shocking conclusion, indicate that the villagers' tradition has become meaningless over time. What's particularly important about tradition in "The Lottery" is that it appears to be eternal: no one knows when it started, and no one can guess when it will end. Its apparent lack of history is what makes tradition so powerful: it's like a force of nature, and the people of the village can't even imagine rebelling against it.
Questions About Tradition and Customs
- How has the lottery evolved over time, and how can we tell? Does its evolution give us clues about its origin?
- Who supports the lottery? Who might want to stop it? What kinds of arguments are produced for and against the lottery?
- Is there any evidence indicating why the villagers might participate in the lottery?
Chew on This
The lottery has become a meaningless tradition for the villagers to follow.
The lottery is part of the village's traditional life and as such, still holds meaning for the villagers.