In the short story “The Lottery” by Shirley Jackson, the author uses irony to expand on a theme of traditions that continue although they are ludicrous and barbaric. “Like a lamb to slaughter” comes to mind for both the characters in this story and the reader. The characters are honoring a tradition that is handed down to them from former generations. The reader is led through the seemingly normal and quaint little village, and is taken on a ride of ironic horror as they slowly grasp the eventual fate of one inhabitant of the village. The title “The Lottery” implies a contest with a winner of some kind, like a sweepstakes.
When in reality the winner is actually the loser or person that will die by stoning. The village, by all appearances, seems to be a normal and ordinary place with its inhabitants meeting in a square with festival like intentions. However, the villagers know fully that when the drawing is over, one person in the community will die. Nonetheless, it is tradition. The atmosphere is casual yet anxious. Tessie Hutchinson arrives late because she “clean forgot” what day it is. It seems impossible to the reader that anyone would forget a day like lottery day.
Her procrastination is logical but her excuse is lame. Mrs. Dunbar tells her son, “I wish theyd hurry. ” Her anxiousness seems due to dread. She wants the dreaded hour over and done with. However, Mr. Summers states “Lets finish quickly. ” as if there are other more important tasks that need doing. Nevertheless, perhaps he is unable to contain his excitement of this event. The postmasters name, Mr. Graves, is also rather ironic. Graves are associated with death and a grave will have to be dug for the so-called winner. Mrs. Adams states that “Some places have already quit lotteries.
Moreover, Old Man Warner replies, “Nothing but trouble in that,” “Next thing you know, theyll be wanting to go back to living in caves,” as if the other villages were living in the dark ages and this village was not. Tessie claimed that her husband, Bill, “didnt have enough time to choose. ” and that “it wasnt fair. ” In these statements, she implies that the other villagers had more time to choose and in fact given an advantage over the Hutchinson family. In reality, time had little to do with the drawing of the “slips of paper. ” It is the luck of the draw and no favoritism is shown.
The eldest Hutchinson children hold “their slips of paper above their heads in celebration. ” Not seeming to realize that their good luck means that another member of their family is in fact doomed. Even if it means that the other person is his or her own mother, they celebrate that it is not they that are chosen. Although all life ends in death, in which fate may play a major role, we choose to believe that when the time to die comes we will have more control over our own destiny. More than Tessie Hutchinson or the other villagers do. As barbaric as it seems, the lottery will continue because it is tradition.