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The lottery is a masterpiece by Shirley Jackson, tackling traditional issues in a small town in North Bennington. Villagers come together for an annual lottery. The village accommodates only 300 people. Everyone in the village has to participate in the lottery with a representative from every family drawing a slip from the black box. As the story starts, children collect stones and put them in their pockets. Mr. Summers is the one in charge of the lottery and his arrival sends shivers across the crowd.
As he mixes slips in the black box, Tessie Hutchinson hurriedly finds her way to where her family members are standing and says that she had forgotten the day of the lottery. Her late arrival and the fact that she had forgotten the lottery day, make Tessie stand out in the crowd. Another outstanding character is the Old Man who thinks people are becoming crazy by planning to quit this annual exercise. While Tessie is a free-spirited woman, the Old Man is superstitious and full of fears of the unknown.
As aforementioned, Tessie Hutchison is a free-spirited woman who cares less about traditions and superstitions. She arrives at the gathering late and makes it clear that she had forgotten the exact date of the lottery. She says, “Clean forgot what day it was” (Jackson Para. 8). Her forgetfulness symbolizes how inconsequential this superstitious event is to her. It is only after realizing the kids were gone that she realizes that it is 27th of June when the lottery takes place.
Her free spirit leads her to protest against the lottery results after her husband draws the marked paper. She says, “I tell you it wasn’t fair. You did not give him time enough to choose. Everybody saw that” (Jackson Para. 21). All people should respect traditions and the fact that everyone attends this event shows how important it is.
However, Tessie; driven by her free spirit, gathers the courage to question the results of the lottery and makes it clear that the results are not fair. This shows that she is not superstitious and does not care about the traditions for she is not tied to them.
On the other side, the Old Man is superstitious and anti-change. His superstitious character comes into light when Mr. Adams posits that, people in the north village want to quit participating in the lottery. He says, “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 works anymore, live that way for a while” (Jackson Para. 16).
He calls young people ‘crazy fools’ and indicates that nothing good can come out of them. According to this Old Man, if young people abandon the lottery, they will go and live in the caves. This is superstition and he thinks the punishment of abandoning this exercise would be going back to cave age. He is anti-change and wants to maintain the status quo.
He says, “There’s always been a lottery…Nothing but trouble in that” (Jackson Para. 18). According to the Old Man, the only reason why there should be a lottery is that there has always been one and anything short of that will fuel nothing but crisis. This behavior is illogical and fears the unknown.
Tessie and the Old Man have contrasting personalities. While Tessie is a free-spirited woman, the Old Man is superstitious and full of fear of the unknown. Tessie does not see the importance of this event; on the contrary, the Old Man holds fast to it and even thinks that abandoning it is tantamount to abomination.
He condemns those who are willing to give up on the exercise noting that they are bound to go back to hunting and gathering era. On her side, Tessie even forgets the day of the lottery and has guts to protest against the lottery’s results for she is free-spirited.
Jackson, Shirley. “The Lottery.” American Literature. Web.