Changes are not easily made in life. To be able to change, one must be able to handle and accept the consequences that going to happen because it not only affects the person that is willing to change, but it also affects the people that surround them. Common themes that are seen to advance Southern Gothic Literature short stories are the usage of “tradition” and “interiority” as a means of getting the readers to feel sympathy for the characters that have no control of changing their fate.
From gender roles to society rules, people have an appetite for control and traditions are one aspect of life that people can and will control. Traditions are beliefs/procedures that are made from one point in time and then continued and done routinely. When traditions are being challenge to change or are in the process of being changed, the ones that are accustomed the most to certain traditions being to fear of losing control of what is theirs. In the short stories by Alice Munro and Shirley Jackson, both authors show that some traditions are found to be helpful and advantageous while others are poor and inhumane.
Reading “The Runaway” and “The Lottery,” may lead readers to establish a conclusion that sometimes traditions lose their purpose for existing, either because the original intention has lost its effectiveness, or because the benefits that are to be gained from changing traditions outnumber the risks of the change. The people of the village in “The Runaway” hold traditional values to the highest order. One standing tradition that the village has is human sacrifice which happened in the form of a lottery. “Seems like there’s no time at all between lotteries anymore. ” Mrs. Delacroix said to Mrs. Graves in the back row.
Seems like we got through with the last one only last week” (Jackson 434). Because the villagers feel as if they are doing lotteries almost every week, it shows that the tradition is very stable within the community and indicates that the lottery is unending. The lottery tradition, however, is one that can be changed because some villages have already stopped (Jackson 434). To have the lottery immersed with the people of the village, the people must have had reasons for continuing. A reason that is given within the story is the reason of food enhancement. “Used to be a saying about ‘Lottery in June, corn be heavy soon” (Jackson 434).
According to Griffin, a good harvest has always been vital to civilizations. Many ancient cultures believed that growing crops represented the life cycle, beginning with what one associates with the end–death. Seeds buried, apparently without hope of germination, represent death. But with the life forces of water and the sun, the seed grows, representing rebirth (44). The lottery was used for beneficial purposes. The intentional purpose was to rejuvenate the soil with the dead body of the sacrificed villager. With the soil in taking the organic matter of the human body, the crops have a greater chance of producing richly.
However, the setting of this story did not take place in ancient civilization so there was no need for a sacrifice. The villagers could have been doing other agriculture activities that could have produce rich crops, but they were scared of change. What if changing techniques decreased the abundance of crops produced? The installation of fear is what kept the community stuck in time. This plays into interiority because it makes the readers empathize with the characters that are picked in the lottery? What are they really dying for? Are they dying to continue producing life or because it is what they are used to doing?
However, if change is seen as “foolish” then they have no means or motivation to figure out a different method to keep their community in tacked because they are fighting the majority of non-conformers. Another tradition Jackson talked about was the assignment of gender roles, but they are not a main issue because whether man or woman, they ended up dying depending on the draw. However, in “The Runaway,” the story play on gender roles tradition quiet heavily with the woman character being submissive and the male dominate. The main female character of “The Runaway” is the traditional wife.
Always listening and taking care of her husband no matter how complicated their relationship is. Stuck in a relationship as complicated as theirs, she had moments where she wanted an escape from where she was. “She would be lost. What would be the point of getting into a taxi and giving the new address, of getting up in the morning and brushing her teeth and going into the world? “(Munro). Nevertheless, Carla, the female lead of this story, cannot and will not escape her husband. She gets the courage to leave at first, but then she starts to think that survival without her husband, Clark is impossible.
Why? Because society, from the very beginning, has been putting women in the care of men. According to DeFalco in “Caretakers /Caregivers: Economies of Affection in Alice Munro,” opportunities for dominance and control are rare for many characters, and the empowerment that attends one person’s dependence on another can also represent stifling responsibility and new opportunities for authority (379). Women had little to no authority over anything at one point in time and are still being restricted to authority in certain areas. Independence was new to Carla. She did not know how to act or what to do with independency and it scared her.
It scared her to a point where she had no other choice but to go back to Clark, to a familiar environment. Subconsciously, she knew that Clark had already driven way her family, but she reasoned that it was her fault because she was the one that stayed. If she blamed herself for this, then everything else she would have done would have been her fault as well. Tradition, like in “The Lottery” is used to emphasize fear. There are some women that live independently and now there are men that face the submissive role in a relationship, but readers can sympathize with Carla because a majority of women still face this type of eality today.
No one would like to go through a relationship where the man still hold to traditions of gender roles and no one would like to know someone that is going through it. Relationships need to be based on equality. If there is no equality, then there should be no relationship. Equality helps strengthen connections with people instead of create conflict. The issue of tradition in this aspect is one that needs to be resolved within oneself. Carla is stuck in a tradition that can both benefit and destroy her if she is not willing to change.