Shirly Jackson's the Lotters and Symbolism
English and Literature
Submitted By mmfpen321
Thesis: In Shirley Jackson’s “The lottery,” symbolism is used to hint at the overall theme of the story.
In Shirley Jackson's short story “The Lottery,” symbolism is used to hint at the overall theme of the story. The lottery in this particular story is not used for good fortune but instead is used for death and sacrifice. Jackson combines characters, objects, and actions to create the symbolism.
There are many characters, both major and minor, that demonstrate symbolism in this story. Jackson uses seemingly normal people from an apparently normal town. The postman is named Mr. Graves, a name that symbolizes death. He holds a leading role as an official in the lottery. Mr. Summers is another character who holds a major role. His name projects thoughts of summer and the season of life. His name is ironic due to the dark ritual and the part he plays in the lottery.
Jackson uses various symbols to portray this grim event along with particular elements that hint towards the ending of the story. The story shows the coldness people can have which can be seen in their values and tradition. The black box is a symbol of the past. The color black represents evil or death. The box embodies the past and shows what’s to come. In the story, the villagers were afraid to even follow Mr. Summer’s idea for making a new box because they did not want to upset tradition. While the lottery was taking place, Mr. Adams said to old man Warner, “over in the north village they are talking about giving up the lottery… “Pack of crazy fools,” he said. “Lottery in June, corn be heavy soon.” This is where Jackson first introduces the idea that the lottery is associated with the harvest. The true intention of the lottery reveals itself when Mrs. Hutchinson receives the death-marked slip of paper. “It had a black spot on it, the black spot Mr. Summers had made the night before with the heavy pencil.” The black dot represents death. Who ever receives the dot consequently becomes a human sacrifice. The symbolic act of stoning Mrs. Hutchinson to death at the end of the story reveals the purpose of the lottery as a brutal ritual based on tradition.
The Lottery’s characters, objects, and the variety of themes, were all developed around the central idea of the story. Shirley Jackson’s use of symbolism perfectly sets up the atmosphere of the story as well as hints towards the horrific ending.