24 March 2023

Symbolism In The Lottery By Shirley Jackson: Symbols & Imagery

Symbolism in the lottery by Shirley Jackson

Shirley Jackson's short story "The Lottery" introduces us to a small village. She uses adjectives such as sunny, fresh, clear, and warmth to lead us to believe the story will be cheery. Shirley Jackson paints a picture of small children collecting stones after leaving school for the summer. The village people gather for their annual ritual in the town square as the summer day continually leads us to believe it will be a happy short story. The reader is virtually unaware of the disturbing human sacrifice that lies ahead.


Shirley Jackson masterfully uses literary devices such as symbolism in the lottery through items' and characters' names. She portrays the underlying decay of narrow-minded people's ethics steeped in traditions that follow a forgotten ritual whose history and meaning are lost to them despite its implication on life in society.


What Are Some Examples of Symbolism in the Lottery by Shirley Jackson?

Shirley Jackson's "The Lottery" is wrought with Symbolism. This a sadistic practice that includes the entire family. Religious groups do not inform what happens. Instead, the villagers continue perpetuating death for bountiful harvests. "lottery in June, corn be heavy soon. "This association of human sacrifice and death with high crop yields is an archaic tradition that most people in a neighboring town deemed unfit and eliminated the draw.


With this in mind, there are three symbols in this society that Shirley Jackson uses to propel the theme of blind faith.

  1. The black box
  2. The black dot
  3. The three-legged stool
  4. The stones
  5. Old man warner
  6. Mr. graves
  7. Mr. summers
  8. Tessie Hutchinson

These items are part of the central theme that Shirley Jackson's short story, "The Lottery," displays.


1. The Black Box- What Does the Black Box Symbolize in the Lottery?

The black box represents the many years that the lottery is taking place in the village and the villagers' connections to their ancestors. Old man Warner is constantly going on about how things used to be. He's been lucky to draw a blank slip of paper 77 times. He says the setting has changed from the beginning of the exercise and that the lottery is something that the town has always held dear.


The pitch-black color of the box is often associated symbolically with darkness and evil. The black box symbolizes death in Shirley Jackson's "The Lottery". It holds the villagers' dark secrets in the slips of paper or wood chips. It also points to the meaninglessness of the ritual of the lottery.


It's important to note the box is shabby, splintered, and faded. It comprises pieces of the original black box, and its weathered appearance signifies how long the tradition has been used in the town. It's been handed down for many generations, garnering a saying, "Lottery in June, corn..." no matter how hard it may be to recall its original purpose.


Households are a final central symbol. The concept of a family whose curse affects each member is common in literature. The Hutchinsons, whose name evokes the real-life colonial American religious leader, Anne Hutchinson, demonstrate the evil effects of the black mark as little boys like Davy Hutchinson has to stone his mother.


2. The Black Dot- What Does the Black Dot Symbolize in the Lottery?

The black dot stands for death and the identity of the victim. They prayed to have a blank slip of paper. Bill Hutchinson, Tessie's husband, was terrified when he saw the black dot on his slip of paper and remained silent.


Tessie, though, was unable to stop talking. "You didn't give him time enough to take any paper he wanted. I saw you. It wasn't fair!" (Jackson 340). Unfortunately, Tessie was the only one to fuss about this black dot. Mrs. Delacroix, a friend, even humiliated her for her outburst, telling her to be a good sport.


3. The Three-legged Stool-What Does the Three-legged Stool Symbolize in the Lottery?

The box also has overtones of racial purity masquerading as Christianity. It requires the support of a three-legged stool; the three legs are linked to Christianity, representing the biblical emphasis on love, trust, and obedience to keep it from falling.


4. The Stones- What Do the Stones Symbolize in the Lottery?

The seemingly unassuming townspeople's resistance to modernity and change shows in their prolonged use of stones as a building block and a dangerous weapon. Shirley Jackson's "The Lottery" mentions kids collecting stones at the beginning. Stones are part of nature, and in this short story, they represent the villagers' reluctance to shift from ancient rights. Thus, they also represent death.


Shirley Jackson's story places stones on a pedestal before the corn season. Stones show that the society is deeply tied to these traditions. Parents allow the children to gather stones for the execution. Bobby Martin, one of the little boys in the village, stuffs his pockets full of stones. The villagers include the children in the terrifying conclusion of the ritual, that is, the lottery, ensuring that the right will be passed down to the next generation.


Everyone gets to enthusiastically participate in communal violence once the black mark has found its victim.


5. Old Man Warner- What Does Old Man Warner Symbolize in the Lottery?

Old Man Warner symbolizes tradition and blind faith. He states, "There's always been a lottery." This illustrates that the villagers had no qualms about following tradition, regardless of the brutality. When Mr. Adams claims that other villages are talking about stopping the lottery, Old Man Warner states, "Listening to the young folks, nothing's good enough for them." This is another example of blindly following tradition without thoughts of consequences. Like the other villagers, he believes that sacrifice is needed for crop success and, therefore, justified.


6. Mr. Graves- What Does Mr. Graves Symbolize in the Lottery?

Mr. Graves can be considered the supreme authority in the devastating lottery. While others may argue in favor of Mr. Summers, Mr. Graves, like his last name, sends the "winners" of the lottery to their graves.


Jackson simply discloses Mr. Graves' name and work title about him, coupled with the information that he is married, like all the other respectable people in the community, so readers may conclude that they must be significant.


Indeed, his position as postmaster may give him some influence in the village's make-believe world, but as a character, he is unquestionably given symbolic significance by his name. The fact that Mr. Graves delivers the stool to support the black box gives Mr. Summers the authority to run the lottery and withdraws to the background in the tale despite his seeming importance are all crucial.


Despite Mr. Graves' absence from the story, his presence tends to give readers suspicious signals about the true nature of the lottery. Keep in mind that readers often feel a clear sense of apprehension when Mr. Graves' wife asks him to go to retrieve a document from the black box for his family because "all through the throng there were men clutching the little folded papers in their enormous hands, turning them over and over nervously." The narrator zooms out and notices the terror that permeates the entire hamlet as Mr. Graves pulls the paper, hinting at the horrific nature of the lottery.


7. Mr. Summers- What Does Mr. Summers Symbolize in the Lottery?

Mr. Summers, the protagonist, represents the irony of evil. Due to his perverse methods of participating in the lottery by delivering the winner's death rather than life, Mr. Summers is a fantastic example of this irony.


As everyone is still gathered, waiting for "the lottery" to start, Mr. Summers feels extremely at ease. He appeared exceedingly skilled at everything, wearing a neat white shirt and blue pants and resting one hand carelessly on a black box. He looks important and proper as he talks with Mr. Graves interminably.


8. Tessie Hutchinson- What Does Tessie Hutchinson Symbolize in the Lottery?

As was said in the last portions, Tessie Hutchinson serves as both a spokesperson for and a scapegoat for the town's residents. She stands for the archaic, wicked side of humanity in contemporary civilization.


Tessie Hutchinson represents the stereotypical townie who lacks morality and follows the crowd. As she comes late to the lottery for introductions, she displays a relaxed demeanor by joking with Mr. Summers and encouraging her husband to "Get up there…" when their name is called to pick (77). Tessie shouts in response to learning that her spouse has the black dot, "It wasn't fair!" (78). Consequently, the other selfish individuals encourage her to "be a good sport" (78) since each slip of paper has the same chance.


The most unsettling scene in the narrative is when Tessie wants to include her elder daughters in the final selection but is let down when she learns they are only drawn with their spouses. Tessie is stoned to death by her other neighbors when the lottery is successful. Shirley Jackson wants us to go along with her festive tale and then be utterly horrified by the collapse of human decency at the conclusion. Tessie was not reportedly religious, although her name might have been connected to a liberal religious figure named Anne Hutchinson.


The Lottery is an ominous warning against following ideals without analyzing them. Most of the town folk follow the stoning ritual blindly. They are willing to commit an egregious action based on blind faith. Don't drink the cool aid! Criticism is an integral part of society to prevent erosion of morals.




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