Throughout the short story of “The Lottery”, Shirly Jackson presents one with various symbols and attributes that later denote the irony of what “The Lottery” really is. What starts out as a bright and peaceful summer day later unfolds into a twisted stoning event. Each and every detail used in this short story is a clue connecting to the final eventuality of the story. For it is throughout the entirety of the short story that Shirly Jackson does a great job of illustrating how people, objects, and actions all work together to create symbolism.

A great example presenting symbolism would be the names of the townspeople. Mr. Summers’ name, for one, is representing the irony of the evil that awaits its place later in the short story. Summer is usually thought to be a cheerful and joyous time - the sun shines and the children play; everything and everyone is elated. Perhaps one of the more obvious links would be the name Mr. Graves. As the name implies, Mr. Graves is a name of death foreshadowing the future outcome of “The Lottery.” The final lead Shirly Jackson creates would be through the name Mrs. Hutchinson. In the earlier years of the New England Experiment Anne Hutchinson was known as someone who could stand up for herself, precisely the case for the Mrs. Hutchinson presented in Jackson’s writing.

Another representation of symbolism would be through the use of objects. Perhaps the most obvious of these objects would be the black box in which the citizens draw from. Black is culturally knows as a dark and evil color – a color suggesting death. Jackson’s choice of using black for the box fits perfectly into the theme of the story and prevails as yet another element foreshadowing the future death of an inhabitant. A further object highlighting the use of symbolism would be the flimsy slips of paper that replaced the older wood chips in the lottery event. This almost brings about a question as to just who is the piece of paper here. The very people that once stood solid on the stoning event are now like pieces of paper in the wind – unable to find their own ground for this harsh tradition.

The final trait of symbolism Jackson utilizes would best be represented though people’s actions. Towards the beginning when the young boys are stacking the stones and getting ready for the lottery event one is not aware that this very pile will be used to stone somebody later on. When this is first encountered it is simply seen as children having fun and playing as they normally would; however, Jackson is just deepening the artificial mood of delight. A second case would be later on during the stoning when Mr. Delacroix grabs for a stone that is so large she can barely carry it. This just adds to the case that a few moments ago she was afraid to loose her own life, and here she is now, one with the crowd and among the first to follow the trend.

Shirly Jackson presents her symbolism in such a clever fashion that it is almost unnoticed the first time through the story. For it is only after the story is completed that one comes back to re-read and extend the use of the symbols to the fullest. And it is after this final examination that one can reach out and apply the concepts of the short story to their traditional beliefs and values, and truly enjoy the masterpiece that Jackson has so graciously brought to life.

 Filed under: Misc, Misc

About The Author

Quinton Figueroa

Quinton Figueroa

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El Paso, Texas

I am an entrepreneur at heart. Throughout my whole life I have enjoyed building real businesses by solving real problems. Business is life itself. My goal with businesses is to help move the human ...



Tina: Symbolism of The Lottery

I think you did an awesome job with the symbolism. I wanted to point out one more feature that I believe the old worn out black box represents. Some of the villagers even mention that the old tradition of the lottery has stopped in some towns. The old worn out box that the towns people keep putting off on replacing, symbolizes the old worn out tradition. The box is falling apart like the tradition of the lottery.

Anonymous: Not only does the box
@Tina (view comment)

Not only does the box symbolize the wearing out of traditon but it is a black box that represents evil. When they place the box a top of the 3 legged stool which represents the father the son and the holy spirit they are trying to show that evil has conquered over good, over religion and all faithfulness.

wwll: HUH?
@Anonymous (view comment)

What?? A black box doesn't represent evil; in some cases the color black is connected to evil but moreso to death. The three-legged stool is *possibly* a Christian reference but why would an agrarian society with a clearly UN-Christian harvest fertility rite and ritualized murder care about that? And who are 'they' in the last line? Who's trying to show that? Jackson? The villagers? Are you arguing that they are post-Christian believers?

Anonymous: But, was the delacroix

But, was the delacroix woman throwing the biggest stone out of hate or to quickly kill her friend so that she may not be in agony????

Anonymous: It depends on your POV. I
@Anonymous (view comment)

It depends on your POV. I believe it was the only way the women had any power or control over their destiny - it was a mercy killing. They may not have been able to stop the tradition, but they could end it quickly.

Anonymous: Shirley Jackson's The Lottery

What are all the reasons for the sucess of her short story the lottery?

Kind Regards,

dessmarie: mr martin?
@Anonymous (view comment)

What does mr martin symbolize in this story ? im stuck /:

Anonymous: What does Mr. Martain

What does Mr. Martain represent?

Anonymouse: Mr. Martin

Martin means "ape"
The way that Shirley Jackson uses the name "Harry Martin" or "Hairy Ape" represents the primitive being within all of us.

Mina: Dear Quinton;

Dear Quinton;
your analysis on "The Lottery" was interesting. I couldn't stand thinking of the story and stay calm. it drove me nuts. as though it reminded me that I'm really a "Fool Educated". still living with old old , silly traditions. Anyway, that was a good one. Wish u luck

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