the lottery

Themes, Symbols, Motifs
Analyzing a Short Story
 You already have learned how to understand the
structure of a short story and its narration.
1. What is the plot and climax of “The Lottery?”
2. What type of narrator do we have and how do
you know this?
Theme Review
defined as a main idea or an underlying meaning
of a literary work that may be stated directly or indirectly.
A major theme is an idea that a writer repeats in their
work, making it the most significant idea in a literary work.
A minor theme, on the other hand, refers to an idea that
appears in a work briefly and gives way to another minor
So What is the Major Theme of “The Lottery?”
Danger of Blindly Following
 Jackson demonstrates a warning here for society not
to blindly follow tradition.
 She writes this short story in 1948, just after the great
depression and World War Two.
 Through this society Jackson warns us of what might
happen if we do not question our existing traditions.
 The villagers do not know who they are to stone,
why they are to stone them and what purpose it
serves. They are just told to do so through tradition.
 The villagers just seem to know where to go and
when to go there. They question nothing.
Why Tradition?
 The villagers’ blind acceptance of the lottery has
allowed ritual murder to become part of their town
fabric. As they have demonstrated, they feel
powerless to change—or even try to change—
anything, although there is no one forcing them to
keep things the same.
 If the villagers stopped to question it, they would be
forced to ask themselves why they are committing a
murder—but no one stops to question. For them, the
fact that this is tradition is reason enough and gives
them all the justification they need.
an object representing another to give it an
entirely different meaning that is much deeper and more
significant. Sometimes, however, an action, an event or a
word spoken by someone may have a symbolic value.
For instance, “smile” is a symbol of friendship.
Similarly, the action of someone smiling at you may
stand as a symbol of the feeling of affection which that
person has for you.
The Black Box!
 The Black Box represents the tradition of the lottery
and the blind following of it. The box has been
replaced and no one knows why; there are no longer
woodchips used and no one knows why; they talk of
fixing the box, but it never happens. No one even
knows where the box came from in the first place.
The Lottery Itself
 The lottery represents any action, behavior, or idea that
is passed down from one generation to the next that’s
accepted and followed unquestioningly, no matter how
illogical, bizarre, or cruel. The lottery has been taking
place in the village for as long as anyone can remember.
It is a tradition, an annual ritual that no one has thought
to question.
The lottery is an extreme example of what can happen
when traditions are not questioned or addressed
critically by new generations.
 Motif: an object or idea that repeats itself throughout a
literary work.
 Family bonds are a significant part of the lottery, but
this is ironic (the idea that an intention or attitude
opposite to what is stated). The idea that family does
the killing is ironic because in a normal society this
would be the opposite of what actually would
happen as family is supposed to support one
 The emphasis on family only heightens the killing’s
cruelty because family members so easily turn
against one another.
 The lottery is full of rules that are arbitrarily
followed or disregarded (why people are chosen,
how long the lottery has been around, why men
choose for the family and so on).
 The intricate rules the villagers follow suggest that
the lottery is an efficient, logical ritual and that there
is an important purpose behind it, whereas the rules
that have lapsed, however, reveal the essential
randomness of the lottery’s dark conclusion.
 Can you think of other traditions in your culture that
are followed without question? Do you like them?
Why or why not? Are you able to follow them here
in Canada?
 Write 2 paragraphs explaining a tradition you have and
how you feel about it. Has it changed? Why or why not?