The Lottery by Shirley Jackson





The Lottery by Shirley Jackson

It is important for people in any traditional setting to understand why they follow certain practices and their outcomes. A village blindly follows a lottery where they have to meet every June 27 to choose from the black box and the person who chooses the slip with the black dot gets stoned. There are 300 people in the village who participate in the lottery (Jackson, Shirley). The lottery is a perfect example of following tradition blindly without questioning the reason behind the custom. The members of this society are supposed to stone an individual who picks the marked paper in the lottery box as this has been a tradition they hold every year and passed down generation after generation. Traditions should not be followed blindly as they hinder change, creates human violence and nurtures hypocrisy. 

Holding on to tradition and conventional methods can hinder change which is propelled by creativity and innovation. Traditions are good for posterity purposes and remembrance of the origin of things and humans, but they should never remain constant as time changes. In the Lottery, Old Man Warner is fearful of change despite the dreadful outcome of the tradition. Tradition is not confined in culture as it is also present in the corporate circles where it hinders growth (Li, Zonggui 34). Change is necessary especially when the outcomes are not satisfactory as there needs to be a paradigm shift.

Human violence can arise as a result of following tradition without questioning its purpose. The human violence in the lottery is not external but internal where people are in internal conflict about the tradition but they outwardly obey the tradition participating in the throwing stones. Tessie’s family had to choose tradition over family due to the conflict presented by the tradition. It is critical to follow a tradition that does not compromise the fundamental rights of others that include right to life, freedom and happiness (Berkin, Carol et al. 144). The Lottery is a tradition that compromises these three fundamental rights and should be discarded. 

Following tradition blindly is a manifestation of hypocrisy among the people. Out of the community’s hypocrisy and pretense that they are not aware that the tradition is harmful, is the source of their grief as each year they have to stone one of their own without any reason except for tradition. To deal with the hypocrisy, the community should be aware that actions should be judged by their outcomes and not means (Hooker, Brad). Failure to acknowledge the harmful outcome of the lottery tradition has cost the community innocent lives annually. 

On the contrary, the supporters of tradition claim that it is the duty of the members of the society to follow the tradition. The blind following of the lottery tradition can be understood through Kantian duty ethics. In this theory, people are bound by duty in everything they do and this justifies it as a moral action. The people of the village are morally justified to follow the tradition without questioning its merit as they are bound by their customs to do so. In duty or deontological ethics, moral actions are judged not based on the outcomes but based on rules or duty.

Secondly, those supporting the lottery tradition would argue it is paying allegiance to a higher calling. The lottery tradition is similar to the story of Abraham who asked by God to sacrifice his innocent son Isaac. Therefore, the gods are justified to do anything and the humans are not in position to question their will. In Roman mythology, Nero killed her mother as these were orders from the gods to punish her mother (Snyder, James D). In a similar way, the lottery could be a way for the gods to identify those they want to punish through death. 

In conclusion, traditions are necessary but people should not be held hostage to retrogressive customs that require killing of innocent people or doing unethical acts. People have the right to question tradition as it releases them from the chains of hypocrisy and prevent them from both internal and external conflicts. People should change with time so should tradition.


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