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Shirley Jackson's Short Story - Symbolism

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In Shirley Jackson's short story The Lottery, symbolism, foreshadowing, and irony are used to enhance and stress the theme of the story. The story begins by deceiving us with the perception of a clear, summer day in June, when there isn't a single worry in the town. As we continue reading, there is a perturbed feeling that things are not as they seem. We come to find out that this blossoming; sunny day, is really a traditional day of sacrifice. The town gathers together to draw their paper out of the box; the one who receives the black dot on their paper has "won the lottery" and is now stoned to death. The theme Jackson is conveying is how narrow-minded people can be when it comes to their traditions. Lack of compassion can be exhibited in people during situations regarding tradition and values or just for the sake of keeping a routine. The town goes along with the lottery because it is socially acceptable and submits to the tyranny of the status quo. Jackson also conveys not only life's chances, but also the sudden, unexpected nature of death. Symbolism, foreshadowing, and irony all work together to create a suspense and keep us wanting to read more.

Symbolism plays the one of biggest roles throughout this story in many ways. The characters themselves are used to symbolize authority and tradition. Old Man Warner symbolizes everything wrong with tradition. He's the oldest man in the town and when talk of doing away with the lottery gets started, he criticizes the idea. Warner symbolizes how many old people can be stuck in their ways and do not conform well to change, "Pack of crazy fools...Listening to the young folks, nothing's good enough for them" (Jackson 308). Mr. Summers and Mr. Graves, on the other hand, symbolize a sense of authority and how it can persuade our thoughts and actions. Although the two are never claimed as leaders of the town, they are the ones who conduct the lottery and make sure everything goes according to plan; therefore the rest of the town follows their guidelines. In life, when we have a certain authority figure, we tend to follow their actions and beliefs. If Summers and Graves were to proclaim that there would no longer be a lottery, it is probable that this tradition would end.

Another use of symbolism is through the head of the household. In many cases, the head of the household is considered the father and the father is the one who makes the rules that the rest follow. In The Lottery, for most situations, the man who is the head of the household draws out of the box for his family. Whichever family ends up with the black dot on their paper, has to draw again to see who in the family will be stoned. This symbolizes the man making the decisions for the rest of his family. The black box that the households are picking their strips of paper out of is also another symbol. Black is often associated with death and evil; picking out of this black box symbolizes choosing your fate of death or life. A deeper meaning of the box can be symbolized as a coffin, where the papers inside are the people of the town.

The story itself symbolizes how de-sensitized a society can become after being exposed to senseless violence for such a long time. In a regular society, a child participating in such violence would seem cruel and unusual, but in this town the children are throwing stones

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