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Crowd Impersonation in “The Lottery” by Shirley Jackson

Crowd Impersonation in the Story

Despite the fact that all the characters of the story in question are vivid, great attention is paid to the crowd as a single organism yielding to common ideas and influence. Decisions made by people demonstrate that the mass consciousness is largely manageable, and correctly chosen accents make it easy to convey concrete thoughts to the masses. According to Pascal, “the stoning in “The Lottery” elicits cruel acts from the crowd as a collective entity, but there is no indication that malicious impulses impel any of the townspeople as individuals” (92). Mass consciousness is formed due to correct promises and motivation, and based on the plot people are ready to execute the loser, obeying the common idea.

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This behavior indicates the psychological subtext of the story described. The author seeks to emphasize that the mass consciousness may be the object of manipulation, and the motives of people are not always negative and justified. As Pascal remarks, the characters of the story do not express the obvious disapproval of the circumstances and act impulsively without resorting to analyzing the situation and conclusions (92). The human essence is considered in the context of needs, and according to the plot, the main one is material wealth. The promised reward becomes a welcome prize, but even after it becomes clear that it is not a cash award but a murder, people are not ready to abandon the ultimate goal. This behavior suggests that the author deliberately presents the reader with the interpretation of psychological pressure. Therefore, the story makes you think about the true ways of self-identification in the context of common ideas and the opinion of the crowd, which is difficult to overcome.

Comparison with Today’s Society

The events described in the story are difficult to imagine in modern society where democratic values ​​are the basis of civilization. Nevertheless, when drawing an analogy with some of today’s problems, the situation presented in the plot may be compared with some of the phenomena that are present in everyday life. Cornog and Raiteri suggest paying attention to the Internet bullying as one of the striking comparisons to stoning in Jackson’s story (71). If a person becomes the object of public ridicule or humiliation, it is difficult for him or her to prove innocence since the mass opinion suppresses any attempts to justify and defend. Such a comparison is in many ways reminiscent of the situation described since, despite all the attempts to protect herself, the heroine is not able to convince people to abandon the idea of violence.

Another aspect that Cornog and Raiteri touch upon is the connection with ancient cultures and historical relics (71). As it is known, humanity is inclined to observe various traditions and rituals that are passed down from generation to generation and are those values ​​that cannot be violated. However, some cultural habits may be incomprehensible to the representatives of different ethnic backgrounds and can even cause condemnation. One of the explanations for the events described in the story is strong adherence to the canons that have survived, and the lottery is nothing more than a tribute to those traditions that have been preserved from time immemorial. Certainly, such people’s behavior defies explanation concerning morality and the value of human life. However, it does not stop the lottery participants and stirs their interest, which indicates a strong desire to observe the usual ritual. Therefore, the tendency to rites is one of the aspects that explain the plot of the story.

The Story’s Tone

The subtext of Jackson’s story is rather harsh and serious, while the tone of the narrative, on the contrary, is conducive to easy reading. According to Timko, characters’ dialogues are simple, and there is no hint of the tragedy (4). Ironic conversations set the reader to the comfortable perception of people’s daily life who gossip, discuss their news, and share emotions. Nevertheless, this way of measured life is false, and the final events of the story confirm this fact. The author’s narrative manner is inconsistent with her idea and desire to demonstrate the danger of public opinion and its consequences. Contrary to an erroneous belief about the interesting prospect of winning, readers are convinced that the tone of the story is presented to surprise with the final and the events described in the lottery process. This approach allows producing a strong effect and making one think about the subtext of the plot.

The stoning ceremony is the opposite of the beginning of the story, which allows achieving different emotions in a short time while reading the story. This effect is largely due to the talent of Jackson and her art to present different events in a non-standard context. The plot of the work makes people think about it after reading, and this fact is the confirmation that the author has managed to influence the reader’s subconsciousness and form an unusual picture. This literary technique is successful and provides an opportunity to attract a large audience to the discussion, which, in turn, proves the success of the story.

Works Cited

Cornog, Martha, and Stece Raiteri. “Shirley Jackson’s The Lottery: A Graphic Adaptation.” Library Journal, vol. 141, no. 15, 2016, pp. 70-72.

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Pascal, Richard. “The Road Through the Wall” and Shirley Jackson’s America.” Shirley Jackson, Influences and Confluences, edited by Melanie Anderson and Lisa Kröger, Routledge, 2016, pp. 76-97.

Timko, Michael. “The Lottery.” World & I, vol. 28, no. 2, 2013, p. 4.

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