Reflection on “The Lottery”

I find “The Lottery” to be a very complex story that must be read more than once in order to be fully comprehended. The first time reading this short story, I hadn’t a clue as to what was happening. Everything seemed to be going normally in a typical small town, but at the end you discover that the “prize” of the lottery is a horrible death by family and friends. I reflected about how weird a story it was without even attempting go near the bottom, only scratching the surface.

So, the second time I read it, things started to make more sense, and bit by bit, I finally figured out what this story really means. The beginning of the story starts with a description of the wonderful weather and how the people interact, which is like any other tiny town where everyone is friendly with one another. Shirley Jackson, the author, uses a happy tone, making it impossible for one to guess the gruesome ending. She makes the ending even more noteworthy by giving the story such a peaceful, happy setting. She writes about the social ambience of the women and how everything is the way it always is. “They greeted one another and exchanged bits of gossip as they went to join their husbands” (Jackson par. 3). The children are playing and one can only guess that the upcoming event is a cheerful one, yet it is said numerous times that no one knows what the ritual actually means and why they take part in it.

In addition, after getting familiar with all of the names, I noticed that Mr. Summer’s name is upbeat and happy, while his assistant/the postman’s name, Mr. Graves, is gloomy, perhaps foreshadowing the death of Mrs. Hutchinson. But, more importantly, to show how each person has an underlying evil inside them, or a good, but also a bad. Without reading the story a second time, I would never have picked up on this concept. 

Later on, when Mrs. Hutchinson arrives, I find her reason of lateness to be an excuse of not coming. She says, “Clean forgot what day it was. Thought my old man was out back stacking wood and then I looked out the window and the kids were gone, and then I remembered it was the twenty-sevent and came a-running” (Jackson par. 7). I believe that Mrs. Hutchinson knew exactly what day it was and where everyone was, but did not want to say tell real reason of being late. She knew what happens in this ritual and thinks of it to be harsh and an event done without thinking. She just does not have the courage to say this. 

Just as the ritual commences, there is a sudden hesitation and fright from the crowd. “A sudden hush fell on the crowd as Mr. Summers cleared his throat and looked at the list” (Jackson par. 17). When Mrs. Hutchinson is finally called forward as the “winner” of the lottery, she gets extremely nervous and scared. She feeds many excuses as to why she was picked and how it was not fair, showing selfishness, but at the same time, she expresses what she thinks of this lottery. She yells, “You didn’t give him [Bill] time enough to take any paper he wanted. I saw you. It wasn’t fair” (Jackson par. 43). She keeps telling everyone how it is not fair, with a response of how everyone had the same chance. I find it strange that she, the person who almost stands up for what she thinks is right, is the one who wins the lottery. No one knows what this ritual is really for, but they do it because it has been done for as long as they can remember. No one bothers to think about why they really follow the tradition. Who knows who will be picked and would they defend the ritual if they are chosen?  If the people of the town just reflect for a moment, they might realize that the lottery prize is really a horrendous thing.

In my opinion, this story is a way to demonstrate how everyone has a weakness inside them, but more significantly, an underlying evil. Even today, people follow what is done by others, and not what they truly believe in. In a way, depending on the ending, it is truly evil.

Getting a bit off topic now, a few days ago, Mr. Parker mentioned that we will compare “The Lottery” to Lord of the Flies. In Lord of the Flies, (don’t mind if I skip towards the end of the book) everyone who moves to Jack’s tribe, leaving Ralph and Piggy alone, are the crowd/townspeople in “The Lottery.” In both stories, the group of people are all insecure and follow the leader, who in both cases take hold of power and use the power in an immoral way. I would then relate Piggy (exclude Ralph, who is the middleman) to Mrs. Hutchinson, who both have knowledge and moral values on their strong sides. However, on their weak sides, neither know how to express their opinions to the others, which results in their final death. Because neither of them have this strength, nothing can be done to the problem.

I find this story to be startling and eye-opening because it shows the reader (after having to do some thinking) that standing up for what you believe in is paramount and can mean the difference between good and evil.

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One thought on “Reflection on “The Lottery”

  1. I like how in-depth your descriptions and responses are, and I completely agree with your thoughts. For example, you said at the beginning of the story the mood was happy, making it “impossible for one to guess the gruesome ending”. In addition, I agree with how you interpreted Mrs. Hutchinson’s excuses for avoiding the lottery.

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