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65279; Shirley Jackson s The Lottery is a short story that chronicles the annual sacrifice ceremony of a fictional small American town. It is a detailed narrative of the selection ofthe person to be sacrificed, a process known to the townspeople as the lottery. This selection is extremely rich in symbolism, with what seems to be a special focus on religious emphasis. There are three main types of religious symbolism in this piece: characters names, objects, and numbers.
The characters names play a large role in the story. Some, such as Delacroix, are rather obviously religious in nature, while others, such as Adams, are a bit more obscure. The Delacroix family has a name which literally means of the cross. The principal Delacroix character, Mrs. Delacroix, appears several times throughout the selection. She functions as a friend of Tessie Hutchinson, the woman ultimately selected for sacrifice, but turns on her at the end along with the rest of the townspeople.
Delacroix is not angry at Hutchinson, but helps kill her because of tradition. The symbolism here is fairly overt: the church, usually seen as a positive influence, can sometimes turn on a person in theme of ritual and tradition. An example would be the traditional Catholic practice of excommunication as retribution for divorce. Mr. Adams, another character, is the first today from the lottery box. His name, Adams, coupled with the fact that he is the first many draw from the box, indicates that he is biblically representative of humanity.
Like theater characters, he is supposed to stand for the average person. This illustrates that the story is universally applicable to everyone. Mr. Summers and Mr. Graves also have symbolic names. Mr.
Summers, the owner of a coal business, runs all the civic activities, including the lottery. His name is representative of the lottery itself, which occurs every summer. Mr. Graves, the town postman, assists Mr. Summers in directing the ceremony of selecting the unlucky person.
Just as he is an integral part of the drawing of the lottery, his name symbolizes the element of death that is an integral part of the lottery process. The objects in the story are also very symbolic. The black box used to hold the lottery slips had been made with some pieces of the box that had preceded it, the one that had been constructed when the first people settled down to make a village there. The box is a concrete representation of the tradition and ritual associated with the sacrifice. Its black color symbolizes death and absoluteness. The fact that now it was no longer completely black but splintered badly along one side to show the original wood color, and in some places faded or stained represents the slow transformation and decay the religious ideals that were the foundation of the lottery concept.
The effects of the passage of time are also evidenced by the passage regarding the slips of paper substituted for the chips of wood that had been used for generations. The ancient wood has been replaced by paper, its direct descendant. The black spot drawn onthe deciding slip of paper is black to represent the death it brings. A third symbolic object is Mr. Summer s clean white shirt.
It is used as the modern equivalent of the white robes the high priest traditionally wore for ritual sacrifices. Numbers serve many symbolic roles in this story: the stool the black box sits ones three legs, Tessie Hutchinson has three children, the lottery occurs on the 27 th day of June, and the oldest man in the town has been to seventy-seven lotteries. The number three has two meanings in this piece. The first is the Christian concept of the Trinity: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. The box, and thus the lottery itself, rests upon the Christian concept of religion.
The number three is also representative of the three different attitudes of the townspeople toward to lottery. Most of the people seem to be fairly indifferent; they continue the lottery as it was done before them simply because they know of no other way. Others, such as Mr. and Mrs. Adams, show an interest instant towns who discontinued their lotteries. They see no real reason for a lottery, southey try to do away with it.
The third attitude is that held generally by the older people. Old Man Warner expresses their feelings well when he remarks that those who would discontinue the lottery are a pack of young fools who will soon be wanting to go back living in caves. It s not the way it used to be, he states. The three groups vary in viewpoint from wanting abolition of the lottery to wanting to go back to the old ways. The date of the lottery, the 27 th of June, has significance in many ways. If 6, the number of the month, is divided by the 2 in 27, it leaves 3 and the 7.
The seventh chapter Exodus, the third book of the Bible, deals with the guilt offering: a blood sacrifice made to ease the guilt of a community. This is obviously a direct link to the blood sacrifice the townspeople make. The twenty seven is a strong re-emphasis of the concept the Trinity: twenty-seven is three to the third power. The seventy-seven years Old Man Warner has attended the lottery represent luck.
Seven is traditionally associated with good luck, and the repetition of the numeral highlights the fact that he has been very lucky to live so long without being singled out asa lottery loser. There are many symbolics within The Lottery. Jackson s use of representative names, objects, and numbers contribute meaning to the story. They all add to the thereof the work, and most serve to highlight certain religious implications of the story.
Without such use of symbolism, this piece would not have nearly the same effect upon its readers.
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