In this seemingly quintessential village, “The Lottery” gives the impression of a preparation for an annual event. The author’s tone suggests happy anticipation around this village tradition. Upon further inspection, there’s a shocking realization that this grim custom is embedded into the fabric of the villagers’ lives. They expect it every year. This is an excellent example of how appearances can be deceitful. Human beings have a darkness within them and an underlying penchant for violence which can be justified by society’s norms and traditions.
Most societies or cultures strive to maintain a way of life with a nod to their ancestors. However, the tragedy that lies within “The Lottery” is simply a façade to stone one of their own townspeople to death on June 27th.
This story is a perfect allegory of what can happen to individuals within a society when they blindly follow customs and authority without question. As we can see, it leads to a deadly outcome whereas a man, woman or child will be sentenced to death by stoning.
This annual practice is one that masks evil. When Mrs. Hutchinson is selected as the ‘winner’ of this year’s lottery, she is clearly upset and laments about how unfair it is when she has been chosen as this year’s winner. The villagers have a numbness about her distraught and are ready to get back to their chores for the day. Even a neighbor whispers to Mrs. Hutchinson to be a good sport about her fate.
Rituals can also be barbaric acts and the villagers feel is it necessary to preserve their way of life. The status quo of daily life is preserved. Even though some have hinted that the lottery should be abandoned, the majority of townspeople are against it:
‘They do say,’ Mr. Adams said to Old Man Warner, who stood next to him, ‘that over in the north village they’re talking of giving up the lottery.’ Old Man Warner snorted. ‘Pack of crazy fools,’ he said. ‘Listening to the young folks, nothing’s good enough for them. Next thing you know, they’ll be wanting to go back to living in caves, nobody work anymore, live that way for a while. Used to be a saying about ‘Lottery in June, corn be heavy soon.’ First thing you know, we’d all be eating stewed chickweed and acorns. There’s always been a lottery,’ he added petulantly. (Jackson).
This could also be that as a society, we are reluctant to get involved because we don’t want to be put in the spotlight or take the chance of being ostracized. Perhaps this is a classic case of condoning behavior by doing nothing.
“The world is a dangerous place to live, not because of the people who are evil, but because of the people who don’t do anything about it.” (Albert Einstein).
A more contemporary example is the Me-Too movement. Similar to the villagers, many women decided to look the other way rather than calling attention to the issue of sexual abuse. It was only after other women and men came forward with a similar experience, they were inspired to speak about past sexual indiscretions.
As we have learned from history, we have seen that man has used violence as a form of entertainment. Even today, violence seems to be ubiquitous in modern living. Hollywood has enjoyed the profits that come with the violence because the masses see it as entertaining. Today, this form of entertainment can be found in movies, TV shows, video games and even advertising.
The image of the young village boys carefully selecting their stones so they could have a ready supply can be likened to today’s children who collect violent video games. It’s in this hypnotic state that the thrill of ‘killing’ enemies in a video game comes to life; virtually, that is. As a reward for a job well done, they are promoted to the next level. Unfortunately, violence as entertainment is as old as mankind. Many ancient cultures practiced stoning for alleged crimes. Unfortunately, in some countries, this is still one method of punishment.
We justify our actions based on what society believes is the norm. Most people are inherently good. Oftentimes, cruel acts are not the domain of just one person, but as a collective society. Justifying corrupt behavior can be done in many ways. It can be focusing on the desired outcome, which in the case here is that sacrificing one of their own will preserve their way of life. This can be looked upon as the end justify the means.
Human beings have a darkness within them and an underlying penchant for violence which can be justified by society’s norms and traditions. Nevertheless, we all participate in a personal lottery. While we may be aware of our own mortality, it is usually unknown when our time upon the stage of life has come to an end. Just like the villagers, when our number is called, we too may think it to be unfair. It is only through introspection and courage will mankind question authority and realize that blindly follow authority can have deadly consequences.