Dystopian Fiction: “The Lottery”





Dystopian Fiction: “The Lottery”


There has always been a distinct relationship between different disciplines on how they provide insight when facing contradicting issues. The dystopian fiction “The lottery” by Shirley Jackson shows the constant struggle of the people striving to bring a clear understanding regarding the unfortunate events causing conflict that seem to be never-ending. The plot in the short story is based on an old-fashioned social setting that struggles to bridge a gap in the social life and societal events (Connors 18). In a general perspective, conflict is the general pattern of groups or people dealing with contradicting ideas that tend to separate them. Most people associate conflict as the basis of war that is yet undeclared. People tend to think and act differently considering the diversity and perceived outcome of their thoughts and acts. In such cases, the differing ideologies result to disagreements in the needs, interests and concerns of other involved parties.

In the dystopian fiction The Lottery, the onset of conflict has persisted in different forms and because of different reasons. Disagreements stir up conflicts between individuals who do not understand the true areas of misunderstanding. People tend to consider the short-term effects of threats rather than the entire outcome of disagreement. Conflict may exist at group level where there are differing ideas and processes among certain class of people. Most of the misunderstandings in the group level owe to the social differences present in a specific setting. This affects the relationships among people in different classes. Gender conflicts arise due to the perceived differences present in both male and female genders. As much as conflicts are considered normal and healthy in different settings and communities, it is important to understand that an exaggeration and persistent nature to engage in conflict may result to hazardous outcomes.


Jackson in The Lottery creates suspense in the short story by illustrating a perfectly normal village using little details that would alter the reasoning of any reader. The author establishes the story with conditions that show comfort in a situation where family and traditions are the basis of every activity. The author also makes use of a third party that is unseen and allows the reader to evaluate and realize that the village shows part of a different experience. Specifically, to capture the major forms of conflicts that the dystopian fiction, the reader needs to connect the different events as portrayed by the author and come up with a central reasoning to the origin and extent of the conflicts.

Title Conflict

The short story title The Lottery portrays a rather contradicting introduction contrary to the expectations of the reader. The initial impression of the story to the reader brings out a message in which a community member who wins a lottery tournament and is rewarded for their prowess. However, in the climax of the short story, it is found that the tournament ends in a loser being stoned to death by the villagers. As mush as the title portrays a conventional effect of a humane and normal town that engages in normal activities, further evaluation point towards a different approach that creates conflict among the readers. Although the author intended to use an ironic approach in the introduction of the story, the inherent evil emerging after extensive research makes a conclusion of the existence of conflict.

More often, people use first impression judgment to make conclusions regarding important issues. The initial reasoning of the lottery would be perceived as gambling competitions that incorporate the use of rewards to attract masses. As much as the story focuses on the traditional setting, the community used the lottery for beneficial reasons such as accelerating its economic status. Initially, readers would not understand the hidden agenda or contents of the story until after they evaluate the deeper meaning. The conflict arises as the title depicts a different reasoning from its perceived meaning. Most readers argue that the short story could have used a different title to avoid contradicting issues in the interpretation. One of the contradicting issues depicted in the story was that of a young boy killing his mother using a stone. The irony presented in the title offers no form of reasoning to the undetermined and persistent killings in the town.

Inhumanity and Permitted Violence

Over the years, inhumane practices and permitted violence have experienced a greater hand in most communities. This owes to the differences in policies and laws that offer no implementation strategies in case of occurrence of illegal and unfair events. This is evident in the community clubs where the laws that young girls and children are restricted do not apply. As much as it is considered a civic activity, the act violates the general policies regarding child abuse and promotes inhumanity. Similarly, the stoning activities take place frequently and the suspects are not apprehended for incitement. Evidently, the lottery victim is stoned without any prior trial or conviction that displays a sense of permitted violence. The community offers no avenues of judgment of right or wrong to provide the appropriate verdict. Violence through death as depicted in the short story is a normal activity since children are also as vulnerable as the old aged.

The form of conflict seen in the story between inhumanity and permitted violence against humane acts and persecuted violence as seen in the above incidences offers contradictory effects on the reader’s minds. Inhumane activities are a common experience in most societies owing to the situations and existent conditions people experience. Children who come from poor settings have to comply with inhumane employers and perform tasks that reduce their dignity such as work at bars and clubs. All this is with an aim to acquire financial benefits to elevate their living standards. However, these activities conflict with the law provides consequences against employers and recruiters to offer jobs to under aged children. Similarly, as much as there is a corrupt judicial setting, it is impossible to offer judgment based on mere fiction rather than pass through the judicial system. The unwarranted murder and killings based on undetermined reasoning and judgment conflicts with the judicial method of issuing verdicts.

Traditional and Modern Conflicts

            The short story is based on a traditional setting, which still applies ritualistic practices in most of its activities. Most of the traditional rituals applied in the community take a negative form of approach where human sacrifice is permitted. These activities are carried out to enable the intervention of supernatural beings in increasing the farming harvests. The sacrifices were offered in form of stoning and frequent murders ignorant of the futility of the activity. This traditional approach had a strong basis that any effort of elimination was faced with great effects of hostility from the public. For instance, the people wanted to abolish the lottery challenges and invest in productive economic activities that would benefit the community (Jackson 13). The people viewed the lottery as a traditional activity that prevented growth. However, the old aged refuted this move arguing that the lottery had existed over many years.

The old shattered black box that had been used since the opening of the lottery representing the old tradition was a concern to many lottery players (Jackson 7). The people argued that a new lottery box be constructed to replace the shuttered box but this plight faced massive rejection. According to the old, changing the box would result to undesired changes in form of luck such as subsequent losses to the players. Similarly, neighboring villages and communities had dropped their lottery tournaments and adopted different forms of economic advancements that would profit them. Furthermore, the tradition that the lottery determines the winner’s fate is strongly infringed in the people that they are oblivious of the effects of their actions. Initially the perception that lotteries were created to reward the winner offered satisfactory reasoning for people to participate. However, this profound tradition conflicts with the modern reasoning offered in the story.

There are always diverging and opposing factors that will cause conflict between the traditional aspects and modern aspects of adaptation in the society. Most traditional practices are based on developed experiences that eliminate any possibility of contradiction. However, with modern improvements in how people interact and carry out themselves in the society, it is important to consider the benefits of change. For instance, the modern application of the lottery has developed into casinos where people can gamble and try their lack to acquire a stated reward. In this case, any form of contradiction as to the outcome of the game or tournament is eliminated. Although traditions act as a source point for consideration and reasoning, applying modern farming methods that are provided through agricultural research may accelerate the harvest therefore eliminating the need for human sacrifice. The people need to realize that fixation to traditional concepts drag improvement.

Gender Roles and Victimization

Victimization and gender discrimination is one of the persistent conditions in most communities. People tend to classify activities and tasks placing the basis of allocation to the perceptions placed on gender. Although the lottery allows women and children to participate in the tournaments, the rampant deaths and brutal beatings are directed towards the women and children. For instance, a move by Tessie to protest against the lottery is faced by an angry crowd who proceed to kill her in the name of performing a ritual. The ability to carry themselves out as free spirits is limited to the kind of brutality experienced in the village (Bakerman 200). Victimization by the people is also a rampant activity where the winner, a victim of the lottery, is chosen regardless of their age, sex, gender or social background. This conflicts with the goals of the lottery, which as stated is to reward the winner.

Some people argue that the lottery is carried out unfairly and the managers of the tournament need to be changed (Bakerman 200). For instance, one manager alters the lottery chips to prevent players from winning the tournament. However, considering it is a woman who made the observation and recommendation, she is despised and the people warrant her stoning arguing that she wishes to abandon the lottery. This conflicts with the law against victimization and discrimination based on gender roles. The laws offer insight on how people should equally value the opinions of others regardless of their gender. It highlights that discrimination and victimization is a punishable offence. The people however do not share the same sentiments. Their inclination to gender classification costs them a life.

Human Nature and Responsibility

Human nature provides for the performance of acts that do not harm others. It is the role of the community to respond rationally when approaching sensitive situations that may cause any negative effects. However, the short story relays a conflicting message on how the people in the village approached issues. For instance, the frequent killings and brutal treatment shows failure in the part of the community to act responsibly and respond rationally when the lottery was carried out unfairly. The lottery shows how people fail to value the importance of others in order to continue with irrelevant and unfair activities. The lottery seemed to benefit the community by acquiring their wealth spent in the tournaments. The assumption that haring fellow villagers would be beneficial to the community was against the maxims of human nature that recommend preservation of life. This displays how the society and its ritualistic beliefs failed to provide a responsible approach to challenging issues.

In the modern setting, it is evident that people tend to perform humane acts that reflect a direct advantage to them regardless of the consequences to others. For instance, individuals in high power positions are likely to acquire public property such as funds to perform their own vendettas regardless of the effects to the public. This move violates all the natural guidelines in which humans are supposed to act responsibly and rationally when dealing with other people. Moral responsibility requires people to reflect on the impending situation, to come up with intentions on their reactions and to perform the act. In this case, people should be held morally responsible for any action they perform with or without prior knowledge. The argument that people can control their actions through free will applies in such cases. However, the short story displays a sense of conflicting ideas on how people should respond towards community issues. Nonetheless, people need to evaluate their actions and the consequences before performing them to avoid harmful outcomes.

Social Class Conflicts

There has always been class struggle among dominating classes in different stages of social development each wanting the upper hand. Each class strives to hold the top position or move up. In the short story, Jackson identifies situations related to socialism where some characters offer themselves regardless of the consequences for the good of the villagers. Two of the major contributing elements to social conflicts and injustice are steered by political and economic factors considering that those in positions of power and of high social class feed the emotions and feelings of the community. For instance, people in the lottery considered powerful and from a different social class include Mr. Summers, Mr. Graves and Mr. Martin who were prominent business people. They were among the managers of the lottery, which propelled their political influence and controlled most of the economic activities in the village (Jackson 10).

Social class conflict exists between the aged and the younger generations on the systematic traditions that have run the village since ancient times (Bloom 22). The aged argue that the young generation are trying to get rid of the town traditions and calls them a pack of fools who are crazy and have nothing to show of it. In the modern setting, adopting change is inevitable considering the diversity of the outcomes from the change. The younger generation has seen the most rampant effect of change and is striving to adopt it. However, this plight faces massive objection from the older generation that argues modern change has no basis and will only lead to adverse effects. Social class difference is also visible in other neighboring communities that have abandoned the lottery tournaments and elevated their social status with different decent activities. In this case, the younger generations are perceived as members of the lower social class owing to the change they desire.


                        Jackson in the lottery portrays a different perspective in the community elements that are based on tradition and ritualistic activities. One of the major themes covered in the short story is conflict. Emanating from differing ideologies and opinions, conflict exists in different forms. From the short story, social class conflict, title conflict, traditional against modern assimilation conflict, inhumanity and permitted violence conflict, gender roles and victimization conflict and human nature and responsibility are the major conflicts covered in the dystopian fiction. Through an evaluation of the events in the story, readers acquire a different perspective to that portrayed in the title of the story. In real life experiences, conflict exists in the political scene, social life and other disciplines where the effect is not seen. The primitive human nature shown by people leads to the onset of controversial issues that stir up misunderstandings.



Works Cited

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Bakerman, Jane S. And Then There Were Nine More Women of Mystery. Bowling Green, Ohio: Bowling Green State University Popular Press, 1985. Print.

Bloom, Harold. Shirley Jackson. Broomall, PA: Chelsea House Publishers, 2001. Print.

Connors, Sean P. The Politics of Panem: Challenging Genres. 2014.

Jackson, Shirley. The Lottery. Mankato, Minn: Creative Education, 2008. Print.

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