The Lottery Essay

1825 words - 8 pages

Colby Madray
4/26/12
ENGL 1102
Lacy Hodges

Jackson and Dickinson Show Control and Oppression
After reading Shirley Jackson's "The Lottery" and Emily Dickinson's "My Life Had Stood, a Loaded Gun," one major theme stands out. In my opinion, both show structures of control and oppression. Control is the influence of others' behavior and oppression is unjust treatment. Both literary works are an accurate display of both control and oppression. "The Lottery" shows control through its leadership and tradition. "My Life Had Stood, A Loaded Gun" shows control and oppression through the fusing of identities and death. Both passages also share many similarities. Some of the similarities ...view middle of the document...

 They do focus, however, on its gruesome rather than its symbolic nature, for they 'still remembered to use stones' even after they have 'forgotten the ritual and lost the original black box' (79). The story thus takes the stance that humanity's inclination toward violence overshadows society's need for civilized traditions" (Griffin 44). The people of this village accept the ways of their leaders and this unjust act for the reason that it has become customary for them because of the control the leaders have on them. "The group experience then lowers the level of consciousness. Therefore, the base actions exhibited in groups, such as the stoning of Tessie Hutchinson, do not take place on an individual level, for here such actions would be deemed 'murder.' On the group level, people classify their heinous act simply as 'ritual'" (Shields 414).
Not only does this example show the role that leadership has on control and oppression, but also the fact that they use control through tradition. The old black box plays an important role in "The Lottery." "Although civilized people may no longer hold lotteries, Jackson's story illustrates that society's tendency toward violence and its tendency to hold onto tradition, even meaningless, base tradition, reveal our need for both ritual and belonging" (Griffin 44). The short story even mentions that the use of the old black box was tradition and that the villagers did not want to change that. Since the black box was so old and deteriorating, Mr. Summers suggested that they make a new box. The villagers did not agree because they did not want to disrupt the custom that it held.
Jackson also exhibits control and oppression through the tradition and meaning of the lottery itself. Once a certain family chooses the specific piece of paper from the old black box, that family has to draw again to select one of the family members. That family member is then stoned to death by the entire village which consists of their friends and family. As unjust and cruel that this is, the villagers do this without second thought. "The fact that the story seems to be such a transparent attack on blind obedience to tradition may be the reason that no further explanation is necessary. But it is not just an attack on mindless, cultural conformity; it is a suggestion of evil inherent in human nature" (Shields 412). Because of the tyranny and habit of this act, the villagers take part in this and murder their neighbor, friend, or family member. The short story displays that Mrs. Hutchinson questions the fairness of the act. Although, when it comes down to it, she stands there in open arms waiting on the stoning to begin because she knows it has to happen because it is tradition.
Through my own interpretation of Dickinson's "My Life Had Stood, a Loaded Gun," the gun itself is the controller and shows oppression. The gun is used to protect, manipulate, and control its owner, which is also the speaker of the poem. In the beginning...

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