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- 9th Grade
- Short Story
Source: The Lottery by Shirley Jackson
|The description of the lottery in paragraph 1 is meant to make the reader feel
|that the lottery is a pleasant tradition.
|Which of the following describes a theme of the text?
|Even if something is cruel, people have the tendency to follow the crowd and participate.
|PART A: What purpose does Old Man Warner’s character best serve in the story?
|He represents the fear of change and desire to follow traditions.
|PART B: Which detail from the text best supports the answer to Part A?
|“There’s always been a lottery,’ he added petulantly. ‘Bad enough to see young Joe Summers up there joking with everybody.” (Paragraph 32)
|How does the detail “And someone gave little Davy Hutchinson a few pebbles” contribute to the text (Paragraph 76)?
|It stresses that everyone participates in the lottery, even Mrs. Hutchinson’s son.
|How does your perspective as a reader about the lottery change over the course of the story? What moments developed that change?
|Initial Perception: A Community Tradition
At the start, the lottery is presented as a traditional, communal event. There’s a sense of normalcy and even festivity around it. You might initially perceive it as a positive or benign community ritual, akin to a local festival or a town fair. This is supported by the description of a sunny day, children playing, and townspeople gathering.
Growing Sense of Unease
As the story progresses, small details start to hint that something is amiss. There’s a mention of the original paraphernalia for the lottery being lost and the ritual having changed over time, which could trigger curiosity about its origins and purpose. Additionally, the reluctance of certain characters (like Mrs. Hutchinson) to arrive and the nervousness in the air start to build a sense of unease.
The Lottery Process: A Shift to Suspicion
The detailed description of the lottery process – the creation of lists, the swearing in of Mr. Summers, the formal, yet somewhat antiquated procedure – might start to shift your view from curiosity to suspicion. The ritualistic aspects seem overly solemn for a community event, suggesting that the lottery might have a more serious, perhaps darker, purpose.
Climactic Revelation: Horror and Disbelief
The story’s climax, where the “winner” of the lottery is revealed to be the person who is to be stoned to death, is the moment of horror and disbelief. This revelation is designed to be shocking and unsettling. The realization that what seemed like an innocent community tradition is actually a ritualistic sacrifice is both disturbing and thought-provoking.
Post-Revelation: Reflection on Themes
After the story ends, you might find yourself reflecting on its themes of tradition, conformity, and the latent capacity for violence in ordinary people. The way the townspeople quickly turn to violence, following a tradition without questioning its morality, can lead to a deeper contemplation of societal norms and the dangers of unexamined traditions.
Throughout the story, Jackson masterfully uses foreshadowing, symbolism, and the gradual revelation of the lottery’s true nature to transform the reader’s perspective from one of innocent curiosity to horror and critical reflection.
Why do the townspeople agree to take part in the lottery and turn against each other? Do you think their willingness to take part in the lottery makes them bad people? Why or why not? Can you think of any real-world examples where people have done bad things for what they believed to be the greater good?
Cite examples from the text, your own experience, and other literature, art, or history in your answer.
I believe that the townspeople continue to take part in the lottery because it is a long-lasting tradition in their community, and they do not know how to stop it. It can also be because the lottery can be tied with a ritual and beliefs that after the lottery takes place, their crops and community will prosper.
As for the question of if the citizens are bad people for being a part of the lottery, it is my opinion that every person has good and bad in them. As for the Villiger’s fates, it would be immoral and unjust to condemn them and label them as simply “good” or “bad”.
The reader does not know the reasons for the lottery and because of this the villagers cannot and must not be judged for their actions. I believe this can also be compared to the moral and ethical question of whether would you rather kill a man in place of five others, another hard-hitting question.
Mrs. Hutchinson doesn’t argue about whether or not the lottery is fair until her husband is picked. Why do you think this is? Do you agree with Mrs. Hutchinson that it is unfair that her family was selected for the lottery? Why or why not?
Mrs. Hutchinson’s reaction in “The Lottery” is a critical aspect of the story that highlights human nature and the theme of self-interest versus communal norms. Here’s an analysis of her behavior and the fairness of the lottery:
- Self-Interest and Complacency: Initially, Mrs. Hutchinson is compliant with the lottery. Her objections only arise when her family is selected, indicating a shift from passive acceptance to active dissent driven by personal stakes. This change in attitude reflects a common human tendency to overlook unfair or harmful practices until they are personally affected. Her initial complacency suggests that she, like other villagers, accepted the lottery as a normal, albeit harsh, part of life until it threatened her own family.
- Fairness of the Lottery: From an ethical standpoint, the lottery is inherently unfair and cruel, regardless of who is chosen. It is a ritualistic sacrifice based on random selection, lacking any moral or logical justification. However, within the context of the story and the norms of the village, the lottery is perceived as fair until it impacts an individual directly. Mrs. Hutchinson’s outcry of “It isn’t fair, it isn’t right” when her family is selected exposes the arbitrary nature of the lottery and the human tendency to ignore injustice until it becomes personal.
- Agreeing with Mrs. Hutchinson: Agreeing with Mrs. Hutchinson that it is unfair for her family to be selected involves considering the broader context of the story. On one hand, her protest can be seen as valid because the lottery itself is an unjust practice. On the other hand, her objection is hypocritical and self-serving; she did not question the fairness of the lottery until she was directly affected. This reaction underscores the theme of moral relativism in the story – the idea that concepts of right and wrong can be influenced by personal circumstances.
- Reflection on Societal Norms: Mrs. Hutchinson’s behavior is a mirror reflecting societal attitudes toward unfair practices. It raises questions about how society often condones unjust systems until they harm us personally. Her reaction serves as a critique of societal apathy and the dangers of unexamined traditions.
While Mrs. Hutchinson’s claim of unfairness is valid in the sense that the lottery is morally reprehensible, her sudden shift in attitude also highlights a human tendency to ignore injustice until it affects us directly.
This aspect of her character serves as a crucial commentary on conformity, self-preservation, and ethical inconsistency in societal traditions.
Are you surprised that everyone in the town goes along with the lottery? Why or why not? Do you think the townspeople are influenced by the actions of those around them? Have you ever felt compelled to do something because other people were doing it?
- Surprise at Universal Participation: The universal participation in the lottery can be surprising, especially from a modern perspective where such brutal traditions are typically condemned. However, Jackson’s portrayal reflects a deep understanding of human psychology and the power of social norms. In small, tightly-knit communities, the pressure to conform can be overwhelming, and traditions often go unchallenged, especially when they are deeply ingrained and historically rooted. The absence of dissent in the town can be seen as a commentary on how societal norms can suppress individual moral judgment.
- Influence of Group Behavior: The townspeople are certainly influenced by the actions of those around them. This is a phenomenon well-documented in social psychology, often referred to as ‘groupthink’ or ‘peer pressure.’ In such scenarios, the desire for harmony and conformity in a group results in an irrational decision-making outcome. People are more likely to engage in behaviors, even if they are unethical or harmful, when they see others doing the same, particularly in a group setting where dissent is discouraged or punished.
- Personal Experience with Conformity: Most people, at some point in their lives, have felt compelled to do something because others were doing it. This could range from simple things like fashion choices or hobbies to more significant decisions about career or beliefs. The need to belong and be accepted is a powerful motivator for human behavior. This tendency to conform can sometimes be benign, but it can also lead to harmful or unethical actions if the group norm is negative.
In “The Lottery,” the townspeople’s unquestioning participation in the lottery highlights the dangers of blind conformity and the human capacity to commit atrocities when guided by collective norms rather than individual moral compasses.
The story serves as a reminder of the importance of questioning and critically examining societal traditions and norms, rather than accepting them passively.