The story The Lottery continues to bring forth heated debates since its publication. The story touches the nerves of people as they try to interpret its meaning. The focus of this paper will be on a Marxist criticism of the story.
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Kosenko (1985) posits that the story employs Marxist undertones. According to him, the story symbolises an attack on capitalism. The story attacks the ideology and social order of the town. One Marxist explanation for the story lies in the symbol of the black dot made on a paper for the lottery. The black color of the dot represents evil that is linked to business, which in turn stands for capitalism.
For example, Mr. Summers who draws the dot is involved in the coal business. He represents the powerful class in capitalism that has the control of the town both politically and economically because Mr. Summers also administers the lottery (Kosenko, 1985).
Moreover, the location of the lottery at the town square between two buildings- the post office and the bank represents the political and economic power of the government and those in power such as Mr. Graves and Mr. Summers. The common people stand no chance against the capitalist order.
The lottery is an old tradition that represents the rigidity of a capitalist society. The ritual of the lottery has been in the town for so long that the people no longer know its origin but continue to practise it annually. When some people suggest that other towns have abandoned the ritual, the Old man rebukes them and says that the ritual must go on because it is tradition.
The old man represents people in a capitalist society who opt for maintenance of the status quo. They are afraid of abandoning the way they do things to continue benefiting at the expense of the majority. The people are deluded by the lottery that the society is democratic hence they will not criticize the ruling class.
The people in the society are made to believe that the lottery is democratic and anyone stands an equal chance of selection. There is a possibility that Summers knows the paper with the black dot and his family members are safe from being stoned at the lottery. Thus, we can say the lottery is an election for the powerful but a random selection for the common people.
The story also depicts the social order in a capitalist society in which few powerful individuals control the rest of the society. For example, the powerful people in the lottery are Mr. Summers, Mr. Graves the postmaster and Mr. Martin the grocer respectively. These three individuals are powerful in the small town due to their position.
To illustrate this point when the lottery is picked it is asked who has picked it, was it the Watsons or the Dunbars. The two families mentioned are not powerful in the town. Why did they not ask whether the Graves or the summers had it? This shows that the powerful are in control of the lottery and have no chance of being victims of stoning.
In addition, the women in this society are low in status. They have no power and only the men in their families can pick the lottery for the families and if the man of the family is absent, his son represents him instead of the wife. Just like in a capitalist society, people who have no power have no say in the affairs of the society, which is left to the powerful few.
Finally, the author of the story seems to criticize a society that oppresses the weak and depends on outdated practices to maintain discriminative social order. The lottery helps the powerful to continue to control the town in other words capitalism goes on to enable Mr. Summers and his likes remain in positions of power.
Kosenko, P. (1985): A Marxist-Feminist Reading of Shirley Jackson’s ‘The Lottery.’
New Orleans Review, 12, 27-32.