The Lottery Essay

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Theme essay for " The Lottery" The central theme of Shirley Jackson’s short story “The Lottery” is that the will of the group can overtake the power of the individual. The story illuminates the comfort people find in group- decisions, as a group decision eliminates personal responsibility. Furthermore, it describes a culture in which tradition is the security blanket of the community at the sacrifice of reason. Jackson demonstrates how society can shun independent thought as dangerous. “The Lottery” is a memorable tale of the dark side of human nature. The villagers in Jackson’s story cling to the will of the group. They find comfort in following the rules others have set out for them. This is even clear in the young children, just out of school, the narrator states: for whom “the feeling of liberty sat uneasily on most of them.” They yearn for the structure of society, of school, of rules and consequences and directions. With directions and group decision- making, individuals do not need to take responsibility for their actions; they do not make decisions for themselves. This phenomenon is most vividly illustrated in the closing scene. The first thrower of a stone is unnamed; “A stone hit her on the side of the head.” The human being behind this act of violence is hidden, and then the will of the group takes over. Individuals are no longer named but become “they” as the story concludes, “and then they were upon her.” But the power of the group rests in the lack of responsibility for individual thought. Not only are the villagers comforted by the lack of individual responsibility, but they also rely on tradition. The villagers’ reliance on tradition as a safety net forces them to sacrifice reason. Jackson’s story is a criticism of any society that rests heavily on irrational beliefs, be they those of the early

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