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What is the theme of "The Lottery"?

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Quick Answer

"The Lottery" is a haunting short story by Shirley Jackson, and its central theme involves the perils of following tradition blindly; another theme has to do with the unpredictability of mob behavior. Both themes come crashing down in the form of rocks and stones on the body of Tessie Hutchinson.

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Full Answer

The lottery in this small town exposes the dark underbelly of every tradition that cultures follow. At the beginning of the story, all the reader knows is that a drawing is taking place and that the entire town's attendance is expected. In small towns, tradition is often revered, and even details such as the black box and the origin of the small slips of paper receive a lot of attention.

However, the habitual acceptance of the lottery has made ritual homicide a part of the community lore. When murmurs about change begin to drift through the town, the superstitious voice of Old Man Warner makes the townspeople fear that their whole way of life would fall apart without this grisly drawing.

The random elements of mob violence also appear as a theme in "The Lottery." There is no reason for Tessie Hutchinson to die other than that she happened to draw the wrong slip of paper. However, once that took place, she stopped being a member of the community. Just that quickly, and that arbitrarily, she was marked for death.

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