January 28, 2013
“The Lottery” is a short story about a small village and the annual lottery that is shrouded in mystery for the reader. While we learn about the quaint nature of the small village where this lottery takes place we are kept in suspense about what the nature of the lottery is about; what’s “the prize” and who benefits from it? We also learn that in the world of this story, other towns in the surrounding area – if not the entire country – have similar lotteries.
We are given clues that this lottery has existed for a long period of time, noting how the town had already gone through at least one drawing box that had been worn down over time. There were also legends surrounding the newer box, that it had been made from pieces of the older box or it was made out of brand new materials long ago. There was also special care taken by the author to tell the reader that so much time had passed since the lottery began that many of the age-old rituals had been abandoned or forgotten over time such as official speeches, pledges, and chants.
There was also a passage in this story about how some towns had already abandoned their annual lottery for reasons that aren’t clear to us.
By the end of the story we read that the “winner” of the lottery is stoned to death. We are not sure why this has to happen, why each year a member of the community who is picked at random has to die such a horrific death. We are left with more questions than answers…
What happened to society which caused such an atrocity to take place? Was there some kind of cataclysm or disaster? Was there a global feminine or plague that caused societies to keep their population numbers low? Or did modern society revert back to ritual sacrifice because of some superstition?
It’s the pondering of these questions that make the story truly interesting and sticks with the reader long after reading it.
As a reader who is concerned about the direction society is going, I was very intrigued with this story. To me, it reads as if the ritual of this lottery has become more important that the reasons why it was started in the first place.
Why exactly is there a lottery? That answer had been forgotten over time, and one character even stated that it was a bad idea to stop doing it without ever elaborating?
The characters follow through with this ritual without ever discussing why; there’s no talk with the children about why it’s necessary, they just do it. There is never any debate from the members of this society if it’s still a good idea to have the lottery or if it’s even necessary for that village to thin out their population by only one person each year.
What’s disturbing is that it’s an annual event that’s the center piece of a town’s fare that’s celebrated with food, dancing, and club events.
Looking at our own society, I have to ask if there are rituals of our own that we do blindly that have lost it’s meaning. Why exactly do we still have a “Fourth Of July” since we’ve lost sight of what the Declaration of Independence means since history has been watered down over the years? Why do we celebrate “Thanksgiving?” It seems to me to be a crazy ritual where families reunite each year only to rehash old gripes or slights; or even worse – not address serious problems year after year.
The important aspect of this story is that it makes the reader question why societies do what they do and if these rituals still have any meaning or purpose. Are there any dumb annual rituals we should let go of or at least re-examine?