Analysis of “The Lottery” The lottery: an ideological mechanism.

• • • serves to reinforce the village’s hierarchical social order instills unconscious fear in peope if they resist this order, they might be selected in the next lottery.

Village • bank • post office, • grocery store • coal business • school system Women = housewives = field hands (not working for wages) Men = business (owners and/or wage earners) Exhibits same socio-economic stratification that most people take for granted in a modern, capitalist society. Social ladder:

• • • • • • • • • • • • •

Mr. Summers = most powerful man = owns largest business = coal company. also mayor =more time + energy + money + leisure  politics. Mr. Graves = government official = postmaster. Mr. Summers + Mr. Graves = political system. Mr. Martin = grocer = the economy. (Food = necessary for survival) Three most powerful men control town economically + politically + run the lottery. Mr. Summers = lottery official = sworn in by Mr. Graves. Both make the lottery slips. Mr. Martin holds lottery box as slips are stirred. During off-season, lottery box stored at either their businesses or homes. Thus, these are the folks who control the town control the lottery. Lottery takes place in the village square between post office and bank = 2 buildings = government + finance. Same institutions from which Summers + Graves + Martin get their power.

These rules determine whose name is on the lists of who gets to choose slips in rounds: one (heads of families). Villagers believe unconsciously that their commitment to a work ethic will grant them some magical immunity from selection.QUESTION: • What relationship is there between Summer’s interests as the town’s wealthiest businessman and his officiating the lottery? • • • Tessie Hutchinson gets the lottery slip with a black spot made by Summer the night before in his coal-company office. 5. Tessie objects that her daughter and son-in-law did not “take their chance. inarticulate dissatisfaction with the social order in which he lives by channeling it into anger directed at the victims of that social order. Lottery’s rules of participation reflect and codify a rigid social hierarchy based on an unequal social division of labor. The fact that everyone participates in the lottery and understands that its outcome is pure chance gives a certain “democratic” aura that obscures the first codifying function. Tessie’s choice as lottery’s victim/scapegoat gives credence to the idea that the lottery is an ideological mechanism which serves to defuse the average villager’s deep. of all resistance so that business can go on as usual and the people like Summers. Graves. has no married male offspring.” • • . what does it mean to have the leading capitalist be the leading politician? What kind of order is being promoted by the lottery? Things to think about: 1. 4. two (heads of households) and third (members of each household in each family). a social body.” but because it served the repressive ideological function of purging the village. The work ethic prevents them from understanding that the lottery’s actual function is not to encourage work per se but to reinforce an unequal social division of labor.” Summers reminds her “daughters draw with their husbands’ families. 2. 3. and Martin can remain in power. The second round is missing from the story because the family patriarch who selects the dot in the first round. What does that mean? If capitalism is the material organization of a social order. The rules also indicate who has power and who does not in the village’s social hierarchy. Bill Hutchinson. Rules of participation: • • • Those who control the village economically and politically also administer the lottery. It is reenacted year after year not because it is a mere “tradition. When her family is chosen in the first round.

First. Another example is Mr. While Mr. even though their exclusive control of the lottery suggests that they are. multiplying its vote through campaign financing while each individual businessman can claim that he has but one vote. Jack Watson’s father is dead. Why? He is probably older than Horace Dunbar. the selection is done in the village square. who cannot attend the lottery because of a broken leg. • • • Democratic illusion of the lottery: • • The lottery diverts the attention of the villagers from the capitalist economic relations in which these power relations are grounded. business supports and promotes candidates who will be more or less attuned to its interests. The exception is Tessie. they wear “faded house dresses” and walk “shortly after their men folk. providing the link between the broader economy of the village and the family. a proxy chooses his slip. who have no direct link to the economy defined as capitalism—the arena of activity in which labor is exchanged for wages and profits made---choose in the lottery only in the absence of a “grown” working male. He draws for him and his mother. the idea that it singles out one person for privilege or attack is not so evident. Women. Graves says that everyone takes “the same chance. In many ways so do most of the women. A careful reading of the story then appears to indicate that “head of households” appear to be not just the oldest male but the oldest working male. and maybe even themselves. and their power is derived from working within the larger economy. in effect. In the lottery.• Power in the village then is consolidated in the hands of male heads of families and households. Although Dunbar has a wife and a sixteen-year-old son. the village ruling class participates in order to convince others. • For example.” which would appear democratic. Why? Dunbar’s son is presumably still in school and not working.” Dresses indicate that they work in the home and not within the larger economy where work is regulated by money. Women are disenfranchised. Men see the women as belonging to their husbands. In capitalist dominated elections. • • • . • • • • Women then are subordinate in the socio-economic hierarchy of the village. because males are the work force. that they are not in fact above everyone else during the remainder of the year. Dunbar.

is the third most power man in the village.” Yet this criticism obscures the fact that Summers is not about to undermine the lottery. • • • • • . but it is not entirely innocent in the village. Warner’s remarks also serves to establish an unspoken connection between the lottery and work. However democratic his early appeal for help in conducting the lottery might appear. Martin. Summers wears jeans in order to convince the villagers that he is just another one of the common folks. the lottery’s democratic illusion is an ideological effect that prevents the villagers from criticizing the class structure of their society. since it encourages villagers to work without pointing out to them that part of their labor goes to the support and leisure and power of a business class. It is not just anyone who can help Summers. but he also wears a “clean white shirt. At the end of his remarks about the lottery. In order to do so. But Warner does not explain how the lottery functions to motivate work. • • • Thus. as he talks to Graves and Martin. He leans casually on the lottery box before the selection begins.” • Possibly in the past the lottery was a modern version of a planting ritual that might once have prepared the village for the collective work necessary to produce a harvest. Old Man Warner appears as an apologist for this work ethic when he recalls an old adage. corn be heavy soon. since by running the lottery he also encourages a work ethic which serves his interest. Mr. since the villages seem to understand the unspoken rule of class that governs who administers the lottery. The lottery also reinforces a village work ethic that distracts the villagers’ attention from the division of labor that keeps women powerless in their homes and Summers powerful in his coal company office. But this illusion alone does not account for the full force of the lottery over the village. Summer’s appeal is essentially empty and formal. who responds. much as a President might put his feet up on the White House desk. these rituals do not necessarily involve human sacrifice.” which is more appropriate to his class. The village women reveal such an unconscious fear after the last slip has been drawn in the first round: “Who is it” “Who’s got it?” The names the women then mentioned are the least “productive” families in the village. Warner’s commitment to the work ethic would be appropriate in an egalitarian community. the other members of his class. Usually though. Warner laments Summers’ democratic conduct: “Bad enough to see young Joe Summers up their joking with everybody. “Lottery in June.• For example. it would have to inspire the villagers with a magical fear that their lack of productivity would make them vulnerable to selection in the next lottery.

in effect. It would have been fine with her if someone else had been selected. in the name of work and democracy. What is happening is that Tessie is a woman whose role as a housewife deprives her of her freedom by forcing her to submit to a husband who gains his power over her by virtue of his place in the work force.” The “we” in his remark is deceptive. Bill Hutchinson reasserts his dominance over his wayward wife and simultaneous transforms her into a symbol to the others of the perils of disobedience. • • • • • • In stoning Tessie. but it is a nervous laughter because she challenges the traditional power relations between husbands and wives as well as the village work ethic. Summers asks her husband to “show her paper” to the others. She does not challenge the lottery per se. the other villagers laugh. • The lottery functions then to terrorize the village into accepting. She rebels against her role. relegate women to inferior status as the property of their husbands. Her behavior. By holding up the slip. what he means to say is “so that you can go back to work for me. Summers says somewhat casually how “we” had better get this started “so’s we can go back to work. She says that she was doing her dishes and forgot what day it was. She questions the rules of the lottery.” Why Tessie? • • • Her rebellion begins with her late arrival at the lottery. . just before drawing the first round. only her own selection as its scapegoat. the villagers treat her as a scapegoat onto which they can project and “purge” or repress their own temptations to rebel.• Remember. The villagers cannot articulate their rebellion because massive force of ideology stands in the way. which. When she makes comments. the inequitable social division of labor and power on which its social order depends. suggests her resistance to what the lottery stands for as well as possible neglect for her specific job within the village’s social division of labor. and such rebellion is just what the orderly functioning of her society cannot stand. • Rebellious impulses are channeled by the lottery and its attendant ideology away from their proper objects---capitalism and capitalist patriarchs---into anger at the rebellious victims of capitalist social organizations. • When Tessie is selected and before she is stoned. coupled with her comments. Unfortunately. her rebellion is entirely unconscious.

Bill Hutchinson will undoubtedly pat Davy on the back and tell him. just as they will be expected to remain outside of the work force and dependent on their working husbands when they grow up. The girls stand off to the side and watch. you did a good job. The village makes sure that Davy learns what he is supposed to do before he understands why he does it or the consequences. The boys hoard and fight over stones as if stones were money. But this does not mean that he could not learn otherwise. “Son. Davy Hutchinson is given a few pebbles to stone his mother. • • • They are being socialized. I am proud of you. • After the stoning of Tessie.” .Note the role of the children in the village throughout the story.

Sign up to vote on this title
UsefulNot useful