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The Illusion of Tradition

There is a Lottery going on today and we all hold a ticket. In “The Lottery” Shirley Jackson is asking people to stop for a moment and take a look at the traditions around them. Shirley Jackson uses symbolism to show that traditions today are sometimes as misguided as the tradition of the lottery in that small town in Somewhere, USA. Evil can be evoked in the most kind-hearted person if tradition deems it ok. Though the years there have been many wars in which many men have fought, and killed. If not put in a war torn environment the men in those wars would never have killed anyone.

School children continually bully each other, sometimes to the point of serious injury. Otherwise kind, loving children, gain strength through numbers and, as a group encourage each other, making it ok to torment another. Usually a much weaker and shy child is on the receiving end of this torment. The children in “The Lottery” symbolize how humans have a duel nature that allows usually friendly people to become violent when put in the right situation with the right conditions. “On a beautiful day in June the young children choose there stones.

Bobby Martin had already stuffed his pockets full of stones, and the other boys soon followed his example, selecting the smoothest and roundest stones; Bobby and Harry Jones and Dickie Delacroix– the villagers pronounced this name “Dellacroy”–eventually made a great pile of stones in one corner of the square and guarded it against the raids of the other boys. “(255) People in this small town are the same as in any small town, but when empowered with numbers and a tradition that deem it ok, evil shows it’s ugly face.

Today tradition is a strong part of out lives. We do not have any traditions that are as extreme as the lottery, however “The Lottery” symbolizes that relevance can be lost over time. Take the Bible for example, it has been written and rewritten several times over thousands of years, translated from one language to another and then to another. Even over the relatively short period of time in “The Lottery” many thing had been lost from there tradition.

At one time, some people remembered, there had been a recital of some sort, performed by the official of the lottery, a perfunctory, tuneless chant that had been rattled off duly each year; some people believed that the official of the lottery used to stand just so when he said or sang it, others believed that he was supposed to walk among the people, but years and years ago this part of the ritual had been allowed to lapse. “(256) Other important details of the lottery may have been lost. The lottery could have served some purpose that no longer needs serving.

A perfect example is a game played by school children called pass-it-on. A message is whispered in one child’s ear, and then whispered to the next child and the next and so on, by the time it gets to the last child the message is completely different from what the first child heard. Other religious examples show that we blindly carry on tradition. Christmas is the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ to the Virgin Mary, but in the capitalist market of the United States of America, Christmas has become a holiday for the greedy. Today Christmas is a day of getting gifts in most families.

The spirit of Christmas is lost in the getting and giving of gifts, lost in Santa Clause and the reindeer. There is not a second thought as to why we hold a celebration every December. Jesus Christ is the furthest thing from the minds of children as they open there new Barbie or Monster truck Christmas morning. Easter is another Holiday that has lost its meaning. The celebration of the death of Christ has become laden with Pagan symbols that celebrate the coming of spring, such as the Easter Bunny, egg hunts, and flowers of spring.

Jackson wants us to take a closer look at our traditions and, if nothing else, find some meaning in them. “The Lottery” symbolizes how hard deeply rooted traditions are to change. Even if traditions are examined and questioned it is unlikely that anything would be done. Society holds onto its traditions and they become a part of the people. Think of how dangerous it is when young adults turn 21 and go out and gets plowed, or how new member of some organizations are beat in ritual hazings.

Even with the most aggressive deterrents it is unlikely that these rituals will change without many years of pressure to do so. Ideas have surfaced in “The Lottery” that it is stupid to carry on with the tradition, but they are quickly shot down. “They do say,” Mr. Adams said to Old Man Warner, who stood next to him, “that over in the north village they’re talking of giving up the lottery. ” Old Man Warner snorted. “Pack of crazy fools,” he said. “Listening to the young folks, nothing’s good enough for them.

Next thing you know, they’ll be wanting to go back to living in caves, nobody work any more, live that way for a while. Used to be a saying about ‘Lottery in June, corn be heavy soon. ‘” (258) “There’s always been a lottery,” he added petulantly. ” (258) Tradition is so strongly rooted that it is tied to the fertility of the land and how well a year’s crop will be. Each and every day we face life with the chance that we may not make it through the day. The black box in “The Lottery” symbolizes the fact that we are mortal beings and just as easy as not we may die any given day.

Mr. Graves had selected the five slips and put them in the box, and he dropped all the papers but those onto the ground, where the breeze caught them and lifted them off. ” (259) Automobile accidents, cancer, heart attacks, any number of things could happen to anyone any time as easy as the slips of paper fell into the box. The slips falling into the box and the wind blowing the others away symbolizes how random life really is with respect to death. Live your life full and pray the wind blows for you.

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