The issue of gender and relationships between men and women has always been an area for multiple debates and the collision of opposing views. Therefore, being one of the most topical issues for discussion, it has been widely discussed in the literature, and “Lottery” is one of the strongest examples of the gender inequality problem. Shirley Jackson, the author of the short story, paints a gloomy picture of a dystopian society where literal scapegoating is deemed as legitimate and where women are pressured into submission. In “The Lottery,” men have created an environment in which women accept the role of a victim without questioning the legitimacy of the decision. By using the metaphor of pulling paper slips as the representation of the grave injustice occurring in the relationships between men and women as they are supported by society, the author proves the absurdity of gender inequality and promotes the idea of fighting against oppression.
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The entire novel is filled with the atmosphere of impending doom and the inevitability of a tragedy: “The people of the village began to gather in the square, between the post office and the bank, around ten o’clock” (Jackson 1). As a result, the metaphor of scapegoating that Jackson uses to portray the absurdity of gender inequality becomes all the more evident as the narration progresses (Snodgrass 48). However, the insanity of the societal norms that applaud inequality is stressed at the very beginning of the short story: “Although the villagers had forgotten the ritual and lost the original black box, they still remembered to use stones” (Jackson 7). As a result, the suspense develops as the plot unravels. Though the specified element of the story is not linked directly to the issue of oppression toward women, it creates the feeling of suspense that would become the motif of the entire narrative and, thus, set the mood for representing the dysfunctional relationships within the community.
The novel indicates the presence of male dominance that has doomed the entire community, even in minor details. For example, apart from the atmosphere of the impending doom that can be sensed in every passage, the narrative also contains the indications that the male-dominant structure within the society has led to significant tension that needs to be released (Casey 5). For instance, the way in which the social hierarchy in the town works is emblematic of the unhealthy relationships by which the specified environment can be characterized: “The women, wearing faded house dresses and sweaters, came shortly after their menfolk” (Jackson 1). Moreover, the fact that men gather in groups, thus, representing unity, and power, whereas women are supposed to follow them instead of building a unified group, is also emblematic of the tension within the town, which is caused by the presence of gender inequality.
However, in addition to very subtle hints at the necessity to change the status quo and address the issue of inequality, “the Lottery” also incorporates the scenes that challenge the hypocrisy of the biased society directly and stress the desperate state of women in the environment that applauds to gender inequality as a social norm. For example, the scene in which Tessie laments for justice and represents a helpless victim needs to be mentioned as the one that leaves the strongest and the saddest impression: “she held her hands out desperately as the villagers moved in on her. ‘It isn’t fair,’ she said. A stone hit her on the side of the head” (Jackson 7). In fact, the entire scene of stoning Tessie can be seen as a greedy, dark, and heartbreaking yet rather sharp metaphor of male dominance in the American society at the time. While the effects that the specified phenomenon may have on the further development of gender relationships is exaggerated, it serves as a cautionary tale about the necessity to encourage gender equality.
The metaphor of the lottery combined with the image of a victim that is chosen on a whim serves as the ultimate proof of the absurdity of gender inequality. Furthermore, the metaphor used in “The Lottery” proves the necessity to alter the status quo and encourage the promotion of equality in relationships between men and women. Therefore, the short story blurs the line between the dystopia that it creates and the society that it succeeds at mocking. Thus, the author successfully subverts the gender roles that were typical of the American society of the 1940s. The poignant metaphor and the daring imagery that Jackson creates in her story strike as shocking and memorable, making the audience recognize the problem and acknowledge the necessity to take urgent actions.
Casey, Emma. Women, Pleasure and the Gambling Experience. Routledge, 2016.
Jackson, Shirley. The Lottery. 1948. Web.
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Snodgrass, Mary Ellen. Encyclopedia of Feminist Literature. Infobase Learning, 2015.