What Is the Theme of the Short Story “The Lottery?”

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The primary theme explored by “The Lottery” by Shirley Jackson is blindly held tradition and the impacts it has on a society. “The Lottery” centers around a village that, in almost all respects, is healthy and idyllic. However, it practices a yearly tradition of drawing lots and stoning one of its members to death.

In “The Lottery,” Shirley Jackson juxtaposes this brutal tradition with the otherwise normal aspects of the village that practices it. This juxtaposition is exemplified by the note that the lottery “was conducted—as were the square dances, the teen club, the Halloween program—by Mr. Summers, who had time and energy to devote to civic activities.” This story does not criticize tradition in general, but it does criticize the blind practice of it; one can speculate about the original purpose of the lottery, but it’s apparent that the villagers in the story are mostly unaware of and disinterested.