The Lottery Themes

The Lottery game Themes

The list and analysis of the novel The Lottery game by Shirley Jackson. Historical background of some main styles of the story and their metaphorical and philosophical significance.

The Lotto written by Shirley Jackson combines the main traits of feminist literature, dystopia and social drama. It shows us a peaceful town in the countryside that looks so ordinary and peaceful and after that begins to slowly expose its dark trick– something that at the start seems just a safe routine like Christmas or Thanksgiving day. The evil portrayed in the ritual of Lotto does not have any significance and any function, it is really mundane. We see that the victim is cheered and motivated to be an excellent sport by the rest of the townsfolk. No household ties, relationship or mere human grace work throughout the Lottery: the victim stops being a mom, sister, child or good friend and ends up being a scapegoat that needs to be eliminated in a gruesome and unpleasant way.

The manner in which individuals are “improving” the ritual, like using paper rather of wood chips and the genuine pride they feel about it, declaring that they made the Lottery more civilized, horrifies the readers. They are entirely (intentionally or mistakenly) missing the bottom line: stoning the victim to death. This part can’t be civilized in any way, however it is the only part the residents of the town feel comfy with.

The Lottery game might remind us about the popular scary plot where an apparently serene town is engaged into the dark routine of fertility that demands bloody sacrifice, however this book is much deeper. The accent isn’t on the scaries of the routine itself, however on the reality that it is regular, with no sacred sense, with no sense at all– simply something that became a good way to invest the day and honor the customs.

The polite and respected people who develop into the mindless crowd and after that back make us believe if anybody of us can dedicating such atrocities if the social requirements mark it as standard.

Society and Class

In The Lottery game the previously mentioned ritual of Lottery is a really social ritual. The brand-new members of the society are raised with the concept that stoning one of your neighbors to death is a completely typical thing to do, if it is done on a particular day of the year. Shirley Jackson prompts us to think of the quantity of traditions we mindlessly comply with in society not even asking ourselves if they still have any sense.

Another aspect of the Lottery is that it plainly reveals the social department. Despite it appears that anybody can become the brand-new victim, so there are no clear class distinctions, but there is another department that plays its part. Luck. The unlucky ones appear to be guilty of being unlucky and the ugliest case of victimblaming is suggested there.

Some critics think that the paper lottery tickets that replace wooden ones symbolize cash or other documents the modern society worth. We ended up being contemporary, we replaced gold, guarantees and other things with paper and credit cards, but we hardly ever think what lies behind that paper and what we are actually holding in our hands. In the context of The Lottery game the paper implies life or death but everyone takes it too easy for the true understanding of this truth.

Banality of Evil

The term “the banality of evil” wasn’t created by Shirley Jackson, really she didn’t even learn about it. At first this term was presented during the trial of Adolf Eichmann, a Nazi officer who set up the execution of countless Jews, however safeguarded himself stating that he was simply following orders and didn’t feel hate for them. The banality of evil is not just doing evil as a mundane action. It is likewise not acknowledging evil, treating it like any other action, since evil is obscured by entirely legitimate directions.

In the setting of “The Lottery” this is exactly the case. The townsfolk are usually good people, they like each other and cohabitate like great neighbors, they are keeping an ancient custom that was offered to them by their ancestors, so they don’t believe they are wicked due to the fact that of it. They just do the same things their parents and grandparents did. The minor implication that they indeed are evil is in portrayal of Delacroix household, who acts extremely Nazi-like with all the theories of racial purity and the feeling of superiority.

Even prior to the stoning, right prior to the choosing of the victim, individuals chat delicately. The truth that one of them will quickly be eliminated by the rest doesn’t bother them. They even go over the evening meal which is very good and deserving to complete stoning as quickly as possible.

The town in basic and its residents are described really vaguely. Each of them is an everyman that might look like any of our neighbors or acquaintances. They are normal people, they simply consider killing others normal if it is done in a proper way.


Conformity is really essential style in The Lotto, though it’s not really prominent. The town is separated from the remainder of the world, so all its inhabitants are almost a closed neighborhood. The new kids who are born in the town do not see any role model other than the one that exists there. They share the same experience and their morals are shaped in a similar method: stoning people is great, it is an ancient tradition they can be pleased with.

The conformity is something that holds people together throughout the ritual. We see just one household, the Adamses, who make a small effort to end the tradition, however their voice is too not sure and they are quickly silenced by the viewpoint of the bulk. They yield to this viewpoint to stay together with the remainder of the group.

Tessie Hutchinson, the protagonist of the story does protest, when her household is chosen in the very first illustration. She responds as the regular person would, and it seems that she is the only sane person in all the town. Even her family doesn’t express any sadness or fear, understanding that one of them will be brutally eliminated soon.

When condemned, Tessie attempts to speak in her defence, claiming that the lottery game is madness and they are murderers– but even her partner shuts her up and seems to be ashamed of her. The conformity to the group in this town is far more important than the household bonds, love or anything else.

We see the people happily assisting each other to eliminate Tessie, they are even caring about children, giving them place to get involved too. The new generation of conformists sees the way the adults behave and is ready to follow their path.

Custom and Ritual

The customs and routines are the effective tool to glue the society together. If in the ancient times individuals performing the ritual were waiting for a certain result, like rain, recovery or great harvest, nowadays it is mostly the way to unify the group. The routine of Lottery game went the exact same way, developing into the amusement that links the people. Once it likewise was a fertility ritual, among the primal ones that needed blood of the victim to “share” it with the soil, so that it can thank individuals with the rich harvest. Now it became something like Christmas or Thanksgiving day for the town.

The townsfolk worth their custom quite. Old Male Warner even express concerns that the town would descend into the primitive method of living without it, representing it as an accomplishment of civilization. The rest of the individuals also praise the ritual, boasting how modern-day and current they made it, replacing the wooden chips with paper and adding some great brand-new traditions like a common meal and exchange of greetings and presents.

However while the story unwinds we see that the custom has no significance at all. No one keeps in mind when and why it began and nobody (except the Adamses, who are quickly silenced) wishes to end it. Nobody understands the history of the routine, no one thinks of its significance. The tradition exists for the sake of itself and this is the thing that offers it limitless power over the minds of the people. Nobody can even envision their life without it.


The society of The Lottery game is hypocritical to its core– at least from our perspective. The commitment, sensations and bonds indicate nothing when it comes to the conformity to the group. So the hypocrisy is considered a virtue in the town if it is linked to the routine of Lottery. However, in every other aspect they are perfectly regular and easy to understand individuals: they despise what we dislike and applaud what we praise. So, a question emerges: can the mindset to lottery game victims be thought about hypocrisy and can the actions of Tessie’s husband be considered betrayal, if the Lottery is so deeply etched into the minds of the townsfolk that they can experience some shifts in their psychics? Can they evaluate what they are doing seriously?

For us the ritual is horrifying and mad, but the villagers have seen it for ages and generations. They matured with it and got used to it to the extent that their conscience treats it as something natural. The most popular defenders of the Lottery are the Delacroix family, who proudly say that they have the right and they are entitled to murder a member of their neighborhood.


The households in the town are perfectly typical, perhaps, even a bit too typical. They are very common, patriarchal and common. This makes the contrast between the time of the Lottery game and the rest of the days even more sharp and uncomfortable. However when the household from which the victim would be chosen, is selected, belonging to this household (or coming from other, luckier ones) ends up being a thing of huge value. The society now is very mindful to this family, watching it with curiosity. Throughout the Lottery game all the family bonds are ruined and the selected victim stops being a moms and dad, a child, a sibling or a lover. The family members who liked them just the other day, actively take part in stoning them to death.

However after the ritual we see that the typical feelings return to individuals. Family members grieve their dead like they weren’t the ones who eliminated them. The social importance of belonging to a picked household is totally removed from the emotional bonds that are considered personal matter and are encouraged and valued in the town society.

Being a part of the condemned family might be thought about of belonging to the family of the oppressed minority. They may be great people no one really dislikes, but they are also the members of (any ethnic and racial group or class), so someone needs to be killed for excellent. Absolutely nothing individual. We see how much the social part dominates: the members of Tessie’s household might mourn her only after joyfully taking part in her murder and they do this totally.

Violence and Ruthlessness

Physical violence is the popular The Lottery style. We see the crowd enjoying stoning one of their next-door neighbors, the civilized community becomes a wild and uncontrollable crowd. The common individuals casually turn into monsters each year, they experience the moment of the “hivemind” where the character indicates nothing and everyone follows the single desire of the whole crowd. And they delight in and commemorate it.

Still, there is another aspect of violence present in the book. It is psychological violence. Tessie is erased from presence while she is picked as a victim. Her hubby does not attempt to secure her, her neighbors are prepared to kill her and do it for their amusement. She is un-personed in the most Orwellian sense. The awful irony is that just a couple of readers recognize it as ruthlessness also, overwhelmed with the physical manifestation of violence.

The conformity of the society, where nobody attempts to question the Lotto and is prepared to accept the viewpoint of the bulk is plainly shown by Jackson as the primary reason such violence ended up being possible at all. Individuals decline their personal duty, and the things turn extremely awful.

Female Identity

The lead character of the story is a lady called Tessie Hutchinson and she is at the same time a victim of the Lottery game. The female identity in The Lotto is extremely important theme because of several factors. The first one is that the Lottery itself is an abject fertility ritual where a scapegoat must be sacrificed to make the land fertile. But fertility is a quality gotten in touch with females and females in general, since they bear children. The Earth is always a goddess, so sacrificing a woman makes more sense and produces an illusion of equivalent exchange.

The second reason is the type of society depicted by Shirley Jackson. It is conservative and patriarchal, where the male members of the families are implied to safeguard women and care about their safety. But in the end, right before the stoning, we see Tessie’s husband, who silences her, shutting down her fierce defence speech and providing her as a victim to the crowd. It is both the symbol of the oppressed ladies in the patriarchal society who has no right to stand for themselves and the awful offense of the necessary laws of the patriarchal society itself. This point is strengthened by the author by taking the surname Hutchinson after Anne Hutchinson, the American religious dissenter, who rebelled after the unjust trial and excommunication from the church. Tessie experiences whatever that a female victim generally does: victimblaming, betrayal and ignorance from the society who prefers to pretend that absolutely nothing bad occurred to stop believing that they could be next.

You Might Also Like