“The Lottery” is a famous short story by Shirley Jackson that embodies a great number of themes and encourages readers all over the world to take a critical look at traditions and related problems and think about the sanctity of life in different societies. Having read the ending, one suddenly realizes that the work is an example of a good horror story that changes the reader’s emotional state.
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In the original story, Tessie Hutchinson “wins” the lottery, and other inhabitants of the village stone her to attract good luck and fortune and, seemingly, ask some divine powers for a bountiful harvest. To me, the story needs an alternative ending that would be more positive and promote faith in people’s sanity and virtue by showing that the villagers are ready to change their perspectives on the world and possess critical thinking.
By the proposed positive ending, people in the crowd are about to proceed with the ritual that they find necessary and distressing simultaneously. Those who have not “won” have mixed feelings about the entire process but just do not dare to voice any concerns, believing that nobody will support them. On the one hand, they struggle with the cold sweats when realizing that they could be in Tessie Hutchinson’s shoes.
They would be destined to die in severe pain just to support the tradition and give the crowd an illusionary feeling of fulfillment and hope for a better harvest. On the other hand, aside from understanding that, the majority of villagers are thrilled to have avoided becoming a sacrificial lamb, which fills them with determination to finish the started ritual. Right around the time when the most respected villager raises his heavy stone threateningly, a young woman sighs and, with tears in her eyes, approaches Tessie. The woman hugs her and looks determined to protect the lottery winner from the “prize” that she is about to get.
The crowd is shocked by the woman’s unexpected and reckless actions. People seem frozen for a few minutes and just do not know what to do next and if there are any rules to follow in such cases. Old Warner shakes his head in disapproval and tells the woman to leave the cleared space and let others proceed with the sacral tradition. Men and women exchange glances and start to converse in whispers; they talk about the chapter of accidents that the village will face because of the woman’s behaviors.
The woman waits for some time, works up the courage, and suddenly exclaims, “How can you think that this ritual actually works?” People in the crowd stare upon her, and she continues her speech in a desperate attempt to prevent another pointless death. She says, “Do not call me self-opinioned, but this ritual just does not change anything – just look at the neighboring villages that have already stopped organizing lotteries!” She takes out a piece of paper with a stamp and continues, “Just compare their harvest sizes to ours, and you will be surprised!” The paper starts to pass from hand to hand, and everyone who can read takes time to study the document carefully and ensure that it looks authentic.
Finally, Old Warner sniffs with doubt and attempts to tear the document into pieces, but Mr. Summers manages to get it and then reads it paying close attention to all numbers. His eyes wide open, Mr. Summers says, “How is that possible that their farm households are far more productive than our ones?” The woman replies, “They just avoid wasting manpower for no reason,” and the angry crowd breaks down the lottery box.
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Jackson, Shirley. “The Lottery.” New Yorker. 1948. Web.