The Side Effects of Casual Indifference A Critical Analysis of Shirley Jackson’s The Lottery

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The Lottery

In her short story, The Lottery, Shirley Jackson demonstrates the hypocrisy of a person through the development of the character of Tessie Hutchinson. The publication of The Lottery in The New Yorker on June 26, 1948 resulted in many cancelled subscriptions due to its gruesome plot (Franklin par. 1).

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The short story follows a village of people participating in an annual tradition, the drawing of the lottery, which is later revealed to be a sacrifice to an unknown entity through death by stoning. It is suggested that the sacrifice will benefit the village. The village people mindlessly carry on the tradition knowing that they are putting their lives at risk by doing so. Tessie Hutchinson willfully participates in the annual tradition and does not speak against it until her and her family fall victim to the lottery. If Shirley Jackson’s intent was to symbolize into complete mystification, and at the same time be gratuitously disagreeable, she certainly succeeded, Alfred L. Kroeber wrote, an anthropologist at the University of California, Berkeley (Franklin). Tessie Hutchinson illustrates casual indifference to acts of violence, self-centered nature, and one who does not question injustice until it directly affects them.

When Tessie Hutchinson is introduced in the story, right away her attitude is shown as indifferent. Mrs. Hutchinson came hurriedly along the path to the square, her sweater thrown over her shoulders, and slid into place in the back of the crowd. (Jackson par. 8). Tessie is late to the lottery because she had forgotten about it. She was so engaged in her daily responsibilities that she had not noticed the date until she noticed that her family was not at home. The village people are excused from their responsibilities to participate in the lottery, suggesting that this is an important tradition to uphold. Healthy and able villagers are required to participate in the tradition. If one falls ill or injured, a family member is ordered to draw in their place.

Although her tardiness is dismissed with a laugh, it is clear that this tradition has no true significance to Tessie herself. Like a student late for class, it is seen for the first time, Tessie Hutchinson probably regards the ceremony as routine and has got used to it, and it is no longer of much importance in her. (Fuyu Chen par. 9). Tessie feels unaffected whether the tradition happens or not. As it is Bill Hutchinson’s turn to draw for his family, Tessie jokingly encourages him. Her casual indifference to the situation is alarming, but most of the other village people demonstrate the same attitude as they watch their husbands draw a slip of paper from the black box. Tessie is indifferent because she assumes that she or her family will never fall victims to the lottery.

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