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Religious and Traditional Symbols in the Lottery

Religious groups encourage and enforce conformity of their social norms and

beliefs upon their members. Religious traditions are usually passed on from parent to

child at an early age. In “The Lottery,” Shirley Jackson reveals the tradition of the lottery

and how all of the villagers conform to the ritual of a human sacrifice. Growing up with

an exceptionally religious father I can relate to way of thinking of the villagers that

traditions are accepted without questioning.

In “The lottery,” the children were stuffing their pockets with stones before all of the

parents had arrived, ” Bobby Martin had already stuffed his pockets full of stones, and

the other boys soon followed his example, selecting the smoothest and roundest stones”

( 529). This illustrates that the children were taught what to do in the event of the lottery

and by being prepared it shows that they were keen to please their parents.

My father had always pressured me to follow his religious beliefs and traditions. At

first I was eager to attend his church sermons and Sunday school because it made me fell

like I was pleasing my father and he would reward me with praise and ice creams on the

drive home. But as I got older I started to realize that certain rules and regulations of the

church were unnecessary and some were even ludicrous. For example, at the age of

twelve my father had announced that we would discard our television because the church

thought that a television allows us to watch the evils and sinners of the world, as so did

the movie theatre and the Friday night junior high school dance. Luckily my mother

disagreed with the whole idea and the television remained . Even though my mother had

not been a true believer in the church she had always gone along with my father’s

traditions for fear of being a disappointment to the church. But when it was her turn

to suffer and to not be able to watch her favorite soaps she didn’t look at the situation in

the same way.


This was the case with Mrs. Hutchinson in “The lottery,” she had not seen any crime

in the annual stoning until it had directly affected her, ” Tessie Hutchison was in the

center of a cleared space by now, and she held her hands out desperately as the villagers

moved in on her. “It isn’t fair,” she said” (534).

The act of the annual lottery can be seen as a religious sacrificing, such as the

human sacrificing to the Gods in ancient times and also the crucifixion of Jesus

Christ that allowed mankind to be forgiven for their sins. My father’s religion

strongly believes in personal salvation. They force their ideals upon others and they

point out the sinful behaviors of society. All of my father’s church traditions seem to

allow the members to believe that they are being separated from what they perceive as



In both “The lottery” and my father’s religion the theme that I believe that is best

represented is the fear of change. The tradition of the lottery is so firmly established that

no one in the village had ever questioned it. When Mrs. Adams mentions that some

places had ended the lottery, Old man Warner thought that change was not a good

idea, ” Some places have already quit lotteries, Mrs. Adams Said. Nothing but trouble

in that , Old man Warner said stoutly. Pack of young fools” ( 532). My father’s religion

is also very set in their old ways. The way of life and how people had evolved has

drastically changed over the last century. My father’s church still strongly opposes

divorce, premarital engagements, and to some extent they have not fully agreed with the

changing roles of women in society. It is obvious that too much change will put a strain

on individuals and organizations and this is why I believe that both the villagers and my

father’s religion have made such a resistant to the evolving society around them.

Considering the literature that I have read so far, ” The Lottery” has had the most

significant impact on my thought and reflection of my experiences of growing up with

religion and traditions. The idea of being forced to conform to traditional and social

norms of my father’s religion at a very young age without understanding why is

portrayed in “The lottery”.

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