Human Cruelty and Indifference as the Main Theme of The Lottery by Shirley Jackson
Society is impossible without the existence of various rites, customs, and traditions. Their emergence and development has its economic, religious or other reasons. However, in The Lottery, Shirley Jackson showed that sometimes people tend to blindly follow even extremely cruel and unjust customs. This novel describes an old practice of the lottery in a small town where locals play a game ending it each time with killing of an innocent person. A reader has an opportunity to see the consequences of blind compliance with cruel practices when human cowardice and indifference can lead to tragic consequences.
The lines peacefully depicting the town-life routine prepare the audience to discovery of horrifying truth about ordinary lottery experiences. The novel begins quite harmlessly: “The morning of June 27th was clear and sunny, with the fresh warmth of a full-summer day” (Jackson, 2005). The reader may think that the plot of the story is simple and easy, but each subsequent description allows the reader to be convinced of the opposite. In fact, the residents of this town are preparing for their next lottery which is a local custom. Its essence is that the one who pulls the wrong piece of paper becomes a victim and he/she is soon killed with stones. The cruelty of this practice is clear. However, none of the townspeople seeks to reject or contradict it. All of them believe that the lottery has a long history, and for this reason, they have to continue to obey the tradition. No one wants to go against their community and demand to ban the lottery. This reluctance is due to the fear of going against all.
Thus, the basic meaning of this novel is that blind adherence to cruel customs can lead to the death of completely innocent people. The author expresses her silent resentment against such practices that indicate human ability to be indifferent and cruel to other people’s lives within a passive society.
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