In the lottery, analogously, the village ruling class participates in order to convince others (and perhaps even themselves) that they are not in fact everyone else during the remainder of the year, even though their exclusive control of the lottery suggests that they are. ) box has grown shabby and reveals in places its "original wood color," moments in their official "democratic" conduct of the lottery--especially Mr.
Summers' conduct as their representative--reveal the class interest that lies behind it.
I think we need to take seriously Shirley Jackson's suggestion that the world of the lottery is her reader's world, however reduced in scale for the sake of economy. At one level at least, evil in Jackson's text is linked to a disorder, promoted by capitalism, in the material organization of modern society.
The village in which the lottery takes place has a bank, a post office, a grocery store, a coal business, a school system; its women are housewives rather than field workers or writers; and its men talk of "tractors and taxes."Let me begin by describing the top of the social ladder and save the lower rungs for later. Summers, owns the village's largest business (a coal concern) and is also its major, since he has, Jackson writes, more "time and energy [read money and leisure] to devote to civic activities" than others (p. (Summers' very name suggests that he has become a man of leisure through his wealth.) Next in line is Mr. But it still remains to be explained Let me sketch the five major points of my answer to this question.
But this illusion alone does not account for the full force of the lottery over the village.
The lottery also reinforces a village work ethic which distracts the villagers' attention from the division of labor that keeps women powerless in their homes and Mr. name if there ever was one) emerges as an apologist for this work ethic when he recalls an old village adage, "Lottery in June, corn be heavy soon" (p. At one level, the lottery seems to be a modern version of a planting ritual that might once have prepared the villagers for the collective work necessary to produce a harvest.One can imagine the average reader of Jackson's story protesting: But we engage in no such inhuman practices.Why are you accusing us of she broke down and said the following in response to persistent queries from her readers about her intentions: "Explaining just what I had hoped the story to say is very difficult.They make their first appearance "wearing faded house dresses . Having sketched some of the power relations within the families of the village, I can now shift my attention to the ways in which what I have called the democratic illusion of the lottery diverts their attention from the capitalist economic relations in which these relations of power are grounded.On its surface, the idea of a lottery in which everyone, as Mrs. It is not hard to account for this response: Jackson's story portrays an "average" New England village with "average" citizens engaged in a deadly rite, the annual selection of a sacrificial victim by means of a public lottery, and does so quite deviously: not until well along in the story do we suspect that the "winner" will be stoned to death by the rest of the villagers. Please do not ask me to answer your classroom essay questions for you; it defeats the purpose of your instructor having given you the assignment.No mere "irrational" tradition, the lottery is an . Martin steadies the lottery box as the slips are stirred (p. In the off season, the lottery box is stored either at their places of business or their residences: "It had spent on year in Mr. That such a relationship does exist is suggested by one of the most revealing lines of the text.It serves to reinforce the village's hierarchical social order by instilling the villages with an unconscious fear that if they resist this order they might be selected in the next lottery. Graves' barn and another year underfoot in the post-office, and sometimes it was set on a shelf in the Martin grocery and left there" (p. Who controls the town, then, also controls the lottery. When Bill Hutchinson forces his wife Tessie to open her lottery slip to the crowd, Jackson writes, "It had a black spot on it, the black spot Mr.If Summers wears jeans, in order to convince the villagers that he is just another one of the common people, he also wears a "clean white shirt," a garment more appropriate to class (p. If he leans casually on the black box before the lottery selection begins, as a President, say, might put his feet up on the White House desk, while leaning he talk[s] interminably to Mr. Martin, who responds, is the third most powerful man in the village.Graves and the Martins," the other members of his class, and "seem[s] very proper and important" (p. Jackson has placed these last details in emphatic position at the end of a paragraph.) Finally, however democratic his early appeal for help in conducting the lottery might appear--"some of you fellows want to give me a hand? Summers' question is essentially empty and formal, since the villagers seem to understand, probably unconsciously, the unspoken rule of class that governs who administers the lottery; it is not just The lottery's democratic illusion, then, is an ideological effect that prevents the villagers from criticizing the class structure of their society.