An Analysis of Shirley Jackson's "The Lottery": Tradition, Chance, and Human Nature

Shirley Jackson's short story "The Lottery" delves into the dark underbelly of human nature, exploring themes of tradition, chance, and the consequences of blind obedience to rituals. Through the words of the characters, especially Old Man Warner and Tessie Hutchinson, the story highlights the irrationality of superstitions and the desperation that arises when faced with life-threatening situations. This research study aims to analyze the significant quotes from the story, shedding light on the disturbing aspects of human behavior.

The Rhyming Wisdom of the Lottery: 'Lottery in June, corn be heavy soon'

Old Man Warner's quote reflects the tradition's deeply ingrained nature, with a rhyme that has passed down through generations. The belief in a connection between the lottery and a bountiful harvest suggests a superstitious attachment to the ritual, even if no concrete evidence supports the correlation.
"The rhyming quotation, ‘Lottery in June, corn be heavy soon’, is part of the old wisdom that has accrued around the ritual of the lottery."

The Perpetual Lottery: 'There's always been a lottery'

Old Man Warner's insistence on the continuation of the lottery showcases the power of tradition and the resistance to change. The notion that a tradition is valuable merely because it has always existed reveals the villagers' reluctance to question the practices they follow.
"…points to the dogged ‘thinking’ surrounding the lottery. It is not founded on empirical or rational fact or observation: instead, it is a tradition… blindly clung to, simply because it’s always been there."

Illusion of Choice: 'You didn't give him time enough to take any paper he wanted.'

Tessie Hutchinson's objection to the lottery process reflects her desperation as she realizes her family might be chosen. However, her claim that her husband was rushed and did not have enough time to choose a specific slip highlights the false sense of agency the villagers believe they have in the lottery.
"…it reinforces the kind of magical thinking that governs the lives of the villagers. Tessie believes there is more in the lottery than a simple random drawing of lots, even though the lottery is purely a matter of chance."

Desperation and Sacrifice: 'Make them take their chance!'

Tessie Hutchinson's plea for her daughter's inclusion in the lottery demonstrates the lengths to which fear and desperation can drive individuals. Tessie's willingness to risk her daughter's life to improve her odds of survival showcases the dark aspects of human nature that arise in life-threatening situations.
"The message is clear: fear can make someone do abominable things, even turning on their own family to try to save their own skin."

Unfairness and Human Perspective: 'It isn't fair, it isn't right.'

Tessie Hutchinson's repeated phrase at the end of the story encapsulates the central theme of injustice and the arbitrary nature of victimization. The villagers' narrow perspective only perceives the unfairness when they are the ones facing the consequences, failing to recognize the inherent cruelty of the lottery as a whole.
"…we as readers interpret the unfairness differently from Tessie… To us, from our detached perspective, we can see how unfair the idea of selecting an innocent person to act as blood sacrifice really is, regardless of who the victim is."


Shirley Jackson's "The Lottery" remains a powerful exploration of the dark aspects of human behavior when faced with the rigidity of tradition and the randomness of chance. Through the characters' words and actions, the story delves into the consequences of blind adherence to rituals and the desperation that arises in life-threatening situations. "The Lottery" serves as a cautionary tale, reminding readers of the dangers of uncritically following customs without questioning their underlying morality.

Note: The text in this study is based on the literary text provided by the user, and the analysis focuses on the significance of quotes in Shirley Jackson's "The Lottery."

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