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Conformity in “The Lottery” by S. Jackson Essay

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Updated: Apr 10th, 2020

A good literary work is usually expected to teach the reader, and it often tells something significant about human nature and the nature of social relations. Thus, a piece of literature can be discussed as significant or worthy when its content is used to focus the readers’ attention n on controversial issues that are often not expressed openly in the society; when the work can reveal the aspects of social relations that are often misunderstood; and when the work can provoke the readers to face problems that are usually ignored in the society.

In this case, an author can choose to be sarcastic, ironical, or straightforward while conveying the main idea. In her short story titled “The Lottery”, Shirley Jackson concentrates on representing the members of the American ‘typical’ community who hold the controversial customary lottery during the years.

While making their neighbors become sacrificial victims of the tradition that is mistakenly meant to lead to high harvests, the villagers appear to be in the situation when the largest public fear is not human death, but the rejection of the tradition (Jackson 6).

From this perspective, a good literary work points at significant controversial and hidden issues that need to be discussed openly, and it provokes readers to look at the problem from the new side, as it is in Jackson’s “The Lottery”, where the human sacrifice is perceived as normal, the role of tradition is overestimated, and conformity is associated with ignorance.

Thus, Jackson’s short story discusses the possibility of the human sacrifice in the American society as a metaphorical illustration for a range of controversial rules, traditions, and customs that can be the part of the community during many years. The brutal character of these activities is usually hidden under many peaceful names, like a ‘lottery’, in order to avoid the public’s resistance.

The characters of Jackson’s short story perceive a lottery like a normal event, that is similar to “the square dances, the teen club, the Halloween program” as “civic activities” popular in the village (Jackson 1). It seems that almost no one in the village sees and understands the violence and threat of this lottery as an ‘ordinary’ event.

The problem is in the fact that even if the villagers see their tradition as outdated, they seem to hide the fact that it is brutal and immoral. From this point, the author intends to accentuate the idea that strange and negative events happen in all societies, and it is necessary to find strength the to admit and then oppose these events, traditions, and rules.

It is also necessary to note that the tradition of a lottery is highly overestimated by the people in the village, as it is described by Jackson in the story. The reason is that the villagers chose to link or associate the human sacrifice with the prosperity and stability in the village, and this wrong opinion is one of simple case uses of people’s annual deaths in this community. The lottery seems to be reasonable because it emphasizes the civilization that is proved to be characteristic for the villagers (Jackson 4).

Thus, a single path for those people rejecting the tradition is “to go back to living in caves” (Jackson 4). The human sacrifice is perceived as the origin of the good for the villagers because they say, “Lottery in June, corn be heavy soon” (Jackson 4). In this context, Jackson stresses on misconceptions and misunderstandings associated with following traditions in the society. The author masterly uses the image of a lottery in order to state that people are often misled in society, and they need to look at issues from many perspectives.

Conformity that is the cause and consequence of ignorance typical for the villagers is associated with their fear to reject the strange and even pagan tradition and stand against the opinion of the majority. Any attempts to speak about forgetting this aggressive tradition are prevented by those villagers who do not know how to live the other way. People can only guess that “over in the north village they’re talking of giving up the lottery” (Jackson 4).

However, they even try to avoid thinking about that scenario in their village because everyone has doubts even regarding changing the box for the lottery (Jackson 1).

In this case, the village is an example of the society where conformity and absence of the public’s opposition can lead to obvious tragedies and to individual victims stoned to death. In this significant literary work, the author attracts the audience’s attention to the issue of the public’s indifference that is often connected with observed conformity. From this point, Jackson discusses the important questions about the nature of conformist societies and about the role of an individual’s opposition to the views of the majority.

However, the story by Shirley Jackson can also be discussed as too horrific and unrealistic in order to be considered as a worthy piece of literature that makes the public think about the important issues. The supporters of this idea can state that the readers’ main feelings associated with this short story are fear, disgust, and antipathy. As a result, any important social lessons cannot be understood and perceived adequately.

Nevertheless, it is significant to state that the metaphorical content of Jackson’s short story is even more effective to catch the audience’s attention than everyday reportages. While focusing on the nature of the villagers’ aggression and misconceptions, the readers become to understand that conformity is the main cause of tragedies in the village where brutal traditions seem to be more significant for people than the lives of their family members.

From this point, Jackson’s short story is most effective to represent the opposite sides of conformity in the society while discussing how the life of one community member can be sacrificed for the good of others without any sound reason to support the choice.

It is important to focus the readers’ attention on the literary piece written by Shirley Jackson because “The Lottery” is a perfect example that demonstrates how the society can be ignorant and misled while focusing on the wrong beliefs that are in opposition to the world principles of morality.

The writer concentrates on the controversial situation when conformity leads to corrupting and destroying the basic social rules. In “The Lottery”, the understanding and vision of the rules of the stable and peaceful life can be discussed as substituted with the focus on outdated pagan traditions according to which the choice of a scapegoat can help the community to resolve the problems. This problem is typical for many modern societies following the traditions of the past.

Works Cited

Jackson, Shirley. The Lottery. 2010. Web.

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