The neverending “Lottery”

Posted: June 14, 2010 in Psychology, Society
Tags: , , ,

“…The morning of June 27th was clear and sunny, with the fresh warmth of a full-summer day; the flowers were blossoming profusely and the grass was richly green. The people of the village began to gather in the square, between the post office and the bank, around ten o’clock; in some towns there were so many people that the lottery took two days and had to be started on June 2th. but in this village, where there were only about three hundred people, the whole lottery took less than two hours, so it could begin at ten o’clock in the morning and still be through in time to allow the villagers to get home for noon dinner… ”

When I first read this short story, “The Lottery”  by Shirley Jackson when I was sixteen or seventeen, it was like reading all the absurdities of  grotesque historical (especially religiously contextual) traditions rolled into a few hundred words. Here.

Though history is full of  challenges to blind dogma as–for example, keyed in the sentence, “They do say,” Mr. Adams said to Old Man Warner, who stood next to him, “that over in the north village they’re talking of giving up the lottery.”– and though  many times challenges are eventually translated into actual positive change–“Some places have already quit lotteries.” Mrs. Adams said.”– history always remains a slave to the iirrational nstincts of human nature, and dogmatic reality always reasserts itself. Incredibly, and ironically desplaying the small mind set of the masses,when this story was first published in the New Yorker in 1948, the author received an “avalanche” of hate mail, along with cancelled subscriptions. People considered the story an attack on small town American values.


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