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  #1  
Old 02-09-2014, 01:03 AM
Leaper Leaper is online now
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"The Lottery": is it "realistic"?

A recent Final Jeopardy led me to this article about the famed Shirley Jackson short story, and this part in particular stood out:

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Originally Posted by Ruth Franklin
Among those who were confused about Jackson’s intentions was Alfred L. Kroeber, an anthropologist at the University of California, Berkeley. ... Kroeber’s daughter, the novelist Ursula Le Guin, who was nineteen years old when “The Lottery” appeared, recalled her father’s reaction: “My memory is that my father was indignant at Shirley Jackson’s story because as a social anthropologist he felt that she didn’t, and couldn’t, tell us how the lottery could come to be an accepted social institution.” Since Jackson presented her fantasy “with all the trappings of contemporary realism,” Le Guin said, her father felt that she was “pulling a fast one” on the reader.
Perhaps the point of the story isn't "realism," and Dr. Kroeber was looking at it through his own particular professional lens, but what do you think? Does the story try to "pull a fast one" on the reader? How important is it that a "fantasy" have a "reasonable" development if it isn't necessarily the main point?
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  #2  
Old 02-09-2014, 03:23 AM
ekedolphin ekedolphin is offline
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The point of the story wasn't realism, but about how nobody cares about bad things happening to people until it happens to them, and then all of a sudden it's "not fair".

As far as realism goes, America would have to backslide thousands of years to reach a point where this sort of thing might be considered remotely acceptable. But I don't have a hard time imagining this taking place in modern-day South American or African tribes, at least the ones far from the civilized world.

Last edited by ekedolphin; 02-09-2014 at 03:24 AM..
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  #3  
Old 02-09-2014, 05:42 AM
Jonathan Chance Jonathan Chance is online now
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Or, of course, in the United States...where the culture of celebrity and reality TV thrives on terrible - and sometimes fatal - things happen to people in full view of the cameras to promote ratings.
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Old 02-09-2014, 06:43 AM
j666 j666 is offline
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I don't think that is an appropriate criticism for a short story.

Short stories are all about themes, not plots, and background is more important in plots. How the Lottery came to be would be necessary only if the How was was the point of the story. A novel has more time (or room) to spend on development.

That being said, if some kind of background is provided, it must be "reasonable", within the work's universe.

Dr. Kroeber's critique sounds like an angry and irrational attack on something that upset him (with no disrespect intended, as I am commenting on an excerpt from an article in which his opinion was reported by someone else … )

But I completely disagree with ekedolphin's description of The Lottery. There was a lot more going on there that "It's not fair". I think I'll read that again today.
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Old 02-09-2014, 07:44 AM
Justin_Bailey Justin_Bailey is offline
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Originally Posted by Leaper View Post
Perhaps the point of the story isn't "realism," and Dr. Kroeber was looking at it through his own particular professional lens, but what do you think? Does the story try to "pull a fast one" on the reader? How important is it that a "fantasy" have a "reasonable" development if it isn't necessarily the main point?
It's like that thread about "least believable fictional worlds." Most modern day fictional worlds make no sense when you think about them for even a few minutes. The Lottery is just another in a long line of that.
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Old 02-09-2014, 09:13 AM
buddha_david buddha_david is offline
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The scapegoat metaphor more ancient than civilization itself; the word itself comes from an old Jewish ritual.

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Originally Posted by ekedolphin View Post
As far as realism goes, America would have to backslide thousands of years to reach a point where this sort of thing might be considered remotely acceptable. But I don't have a hard time imagining this taking place in modern-day South American or African tribes, at least the ones far from the civilized world.
Only in the literal sense, regarding America. It does happen LITERALLY in not-so-backward nations who still base their cultural laws on religion (i.e. Islamic women stoned to death because, well, 'nuff said.)

But America is no stranger to scapegoating innocents for the sake of punishing someone, anyone, for a crime they have committed, want to commit, or simply are having problems solving (West Memphis 3, etc.) A common meme in law enforcement is, "Doesn't matter who does the crime, as long as someone does the time!" And that's just one of many endless examples.
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Old 02-09-2014, 09:23 AM
monstro monstro is offline
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The criticism misses the point. The story is all about the senselessness of ritual. If Jackson had spent pages on detailing the how and the why behind it, then she would have given credence and respectability to the whole thing and thus undermined the crux of the story.

The adherents of the Lottery do not question why they do what they do. The rite just is.
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Old 02-09-2014, 09:36 AM
RealityChuck RealityChuck is offline
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Whatever the point you might think the story has, trying to figure out how the society turned out that way is missing it completely.

I don't think the actual "point" of "The Lottery" can be logically explained; it's a purely visceral experience. The story does not require any explanation and any explanation only weakens it.

The same for Jackson's "One Ordinary Day, With Peanuts." The motivation of the characters is something left neither expressed or implied. I have the greatest respect for stories whose point works purely without an explanation but are still clear without any articulation.
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Old 02-09-2014, 10:24 AM
Odesio Odesio is offline
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Originally Posted by monstro View Post
The criticism misses the point. The story is all about the senselessness of ritual. If Jackson had spent pages on detailing the how and the why behind it, then she would have given credence and respectability to the whole thing and thus undermined the crux of the story.

The adherents of the Lottery do not question why they do what they do. The rite just is.
Lottery in June, corn be heavy soon.

Monstro hit the nail on the head. The story isn't about nobody caring about tragedy until it happens to them nor is it a detailed account of some anthropological rite with unknown origins. It's about people who mindlessly follow social customs without really thinking about it. But the story was very shocking for the era and Jackson and the magazine received a lot of angry letters.
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Old 02-09-2014, 11:30 AM
Quimby Quimby is offline
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I always assumed it was set Post Post Apocalyptic. When resources were scarce after whatever it was, the community started this and now it is just done because it is ingrained in their culture even though it is no longer necessary from a survival standpoint.
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Old 02-09-2014, 11:42 AM
Dallas Jones Dallas Jones is offline
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Originally Posted by Odesio View Post
Lottery in June, corn be heavy soon.

Monstro hit the nail on the head. The story isn't about nobody caring about tragedy until it happens to them nor is it a detailed account of some anthropological rite with unknown origins. It's about people who mindlessly follow social customs without really thinking about it. But the story was very shocking for the era and Jackson and the magazine received a lot of angry letters.
This was my take on the story, I just read it for the second or third time a week ago. There is a bit about the long history of the black ballot box. The wooden voting chips that are now long gone. No one seems to remember the origin of the ritual, this is inferred from the talk about the box.

People get stuck in their rituals long past reason. To abandon the ritual is to risk going into unknown territory, with unknown consequences, better to stick with what we know without questioning why we are doing what we do. A form of extreme conservatism.
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Old 02-09-2014, 12:32 PM
monstro monstro is offline
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Originally Posted by Odesio View Post
Lottery in June, corn be heavy soon.

Monstro hit the nail on the head. The story isn't about nobody caring about tragedy until it happens to them nor is it a detailed account of some anthropological rite with unknown origins. It's about people who mindlessly follow social customs without really thinking about it. But the story was very shocking for the era and Jackson and the magazine received a lot of angry letters.
Apparently Shirley Jackson got letters from people who wanted to know where the lotteries were held so that they could watch them.

If true, that tells me all I need to know about whether the story is realistic or not.
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  #13  
Old 02-09-2014, 12:46 PM
dasmoocher dasmoocher is offline
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Originally Posted by Jonathan Chance View Post
Or, of course, in the United States...where the culture of celebrity and reality TV thrives on terrible - and sometimes fatal - things happen to people in full view of the cameras to promote ratings.
South Park fan?

"Sacrifice in March, corn have plenty starch."
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Old 02-09-2014, 12:56 PM
susan susan is offline
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Blood sacrifice for agriculture or other reasons isn't a temporally distant human activity. Jackson juxtaposes "that thing those savages did over there" with the reader's own culture, which is initially shocking. The impact of the story, though, is in the belated realization that we are not as removed from this as we think. In the crucifixion, isn't Jesus a blood sacrifice for the betterment of the community?

Why Kroeber would get hung up on origins is beyond me.

Last edited by susan; 02-09-2014 at 12:57 PM..
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Old 02-09-2014, 01:55 PM
WordMan WordMan is offline
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I totally understand how Star Trek uses a speculative future to look at issues that face Humanity today. I just can't get past the fact that according to Relativity, Faster than Light/warp speed travel isn't possible.

::facepalm::

The Lottery happens every day, all the time, everywhere. Humans treat other humans incredibly poorly out of Habit and Because That's How We've Always Done it(tm). This story distills it down to this Human trait down to its metaphorical essence.

Damn her use of metaphor!
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  #16  
Old 02-09-2014, 02:04 PM
buddha_david buddha_david is offline
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Originally Posted by susan View Post
Blood sacrifice for agriculture or other reasons isn't a temporally distant human activity.
Appeasing the Gods via blood sacrifice has occurred as recently as 1960.
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Old 02-09-2014, 03:54 PM
Trinopus Trinopus is offline
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Originally Posted by Quimby View Post
I always assumed it was set Post Post Apocalyptic. When resources were scarce after whatever it was, the community started this and now it is just done because it is ingrained in their culture even though it is no longer necessary from a survival standpoint.
Good reasoning. It's like how restaurants, even today, have specials on fish on Fridays, even though the Catholic Church long ago dropped the "fish doesn't count as meat on Friday" idea. It just sank in to the popular consciousness, and hasn't gone away yet.

However...I didn't believe in the story, since the cost -- one human life! -- is too great for people to accept without concern. As every year goes by, and someone loses a parent, or a child, or a friend, the numbers of those directly harmed by the tradition would increase, and would reach a tipping point, probably sooner than later.

Unless the pro-lottery side could show a real benefit to society, the institution would be discontinued.

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. . . Why Kroeber would get hung up on origins is beyond me.
It's a perfectly valid line of inquiry, as is my argument, above, regarding consequences.

Besides, we're fans! We like to analyze things at insane depth. (Look at the thread about Star Trek, Tribbles, and quadrotriticale, or the thread about Harry Potter and quidditch.)

If something in a story seems contradictory to our understanding of human society, you bet the buckles on your shoon we're gonna point it out!
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Old 02-09-2014, 04:14 PM
Ulf the Unwashed Ulf the Unwashed is offline
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Unless the pro-lottery side could show a real benefit to society, the institution would be discontinued.
Or a perceived benefit. There's a brief mention that some other towns in the region have recently given up the lottery. The implication is, well, those wimps can do what they want, but WE are tougher and more tied to tradition, and WE won't give it up. Whether increased civic or cultural pride is a real benefit (given the situation) is a question, but we could certainly understand that they SEE it as a benefit ...
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Old 02-09-2014, 04:50 PM
susan susan is offline
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I didn't protest your thread. I said that it was strange to me that Kroeber, an anthropologist whose work I've read, would have a problem with it.
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If something in a story seems contradictory to our understanding of human society
I don't see it as contradictory, as I explained above. Nor am I suggesting that you don't.
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Old 02-09-2014, 05:15 PM
monstro monstro is offline
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Originally Posted by Trinopus View Post
Good reasoning. It's like how restaurants, even today, have specials on fish on Fridays, even though the Catholic Church long ago dropped the "fish doesn't count as meat on Friday" idea. It just sank in to the popular consciousness, and hasn't gone away yet.

However...I didn't believe in the story, since the cost -- one human life! -- is too great for people to accept without concern. As every year goes by, and someone loses a parent, or a child, or a friend, the numbers of those directly harmed by the tradition would increase, and would reach a tipping point, probably sooner than later.

Unless the pro-lottery side could show a real benefit to society, the institution would be discontinued.



It's a perfectly valid line of inquiry, as is my argument, above, regarding consequences.

Besides, we're fans! We like to analyze things at insane depth. (Look at the thread about Star Trek, Tribbles, and quadrotriticale, or the thread about Harry Potter and quidditch.)

If something in a story seems contradictory to our understanding of human society, you bet the buckles on your shoon we're gonna point it out!
All it takes is a religious belief that routine human sacrifice is a beautiful, wonderful thing and that everyone who doesn't agree with this is going to hell, and what you get is a population that believes in routine human sacrifice.
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  #21  
Old 02-09-2014, 05:41 PM
Trinopus Trinopus is offline
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All it takes is a religious belief that routine human sacrifice is a beautiful, wonderful thing and that everyone who doesn't agree with this is going to hell, and what you get is a population that believes in routine human sacrifice.
I'm not so sure. Considering the huge cost involved, I think there would be significant kicking back against it. This is especially so since the society depicted in the story seems so "American." At very least, there would be an "anti" segment of the population.

Imagine if an American church instituted tithing...and the money was (to all visible purposes) thrown away. Not used for good works or charity, not used to build a new belfry, but thrown away. Used to buy, say, golden icons where were then thrown into a volcano. You'd very soon see people asking, "Why am I donating so much of my money just to feed the volcano?"

All the moreso in a case of loss of life. You think the abortion issue is contentious? This would be even moreso!

It is inconsistent with the "American" description. We like to argue about stuff. (This thread presented as evidence!)
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Old 02-09-2014, 06:01 PM
monstro monstro is offline
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I'm not so sure. Considering the huge cost involved, I think there would be significant kicking back against it. This is especially so since the society depicted in the story seems so "American." At very least, there would be an "anti" segment of the population.

Imagine if an American church instituted tithing...and the money was (to all visible purposes) thrown away. Not used for good works or charity, not used to build a new belfry, but thrown away. Used to buy, say, golden icons where were then thrown into a volcano. You'd very soon see people asking, "Why am I donating so much of my money just to feed the volcano?"

All the moreso in a case of loss of life. You think the abortion issue is contentious? This would be even moreso!

It is inconsistent with the "American" description. We like to argue about stuff. (This thread presented as evidence!)
Maybe in this fictional town, anyone who dares to dissent is exiled.

And maybe this is one of the few places with water or maybe other towns are ravaged by disease and famine (which only affirms to the townpeople that the rite works), so being exiled is akin to being tortured and killed. Maybe a person who questions is not only exiled, but so is their entire family.

I think people, even Americans, are fundamentally stupid. Most of us don't even think to ask "why". And for the ones of us who do, it's just a navel-gazing exercise and doesn't result in action.
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Old 02-09-2014, 06:03 PM
Justin_Bailey Justin_Bailey is offline
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Good reasoning. It's like how restaurants, even today, have specials on fish on Fridays, even though the Catholic Church long ago dropped the "fish doesn't count as meat on Friday" idea.
The Catholic Church did no such thing.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fasting...#United_States
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Old 02-09-2014, 06:51 PM
Zakalwe Zakalwe is offline
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Originally Posted by Trinopus View Post
However...I didn't believe in the story, since the cost -- one human life! -- is too great for people to accept without concern. As every year goes by, and someone loses a parent, or a child, or a friend, the numbers of those directly harmed by the tradition would increase, and would reach a tipping point, probably sooner than later.
Really? Or maybe they would just think, "Well, none of you fuckers helped gramma, so fuck your brother. Stone the SOB."

Quote:
Unless the pro-lottery side could show a real benefit to society, the institution would be discontinued.
Actually, the opposite is true. You have to show actual harm to society to change an institution, the inertia to leave it in place must be overcome.

Quote:
If something in a story seems contradictory to our understanding of human society, you bet the buckles on your shoon we're gonna point it out!
Given the long human history of both human sacrifice and the scapegoat, how in the world do you conclude this is against human society?

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Imagine if an American church instituted tithing...and the money was (to all visible purposes) thrown away. Not used for good works or charity, not used to build a new belfry, but thrown away. Used to buy, say, golden icons where were then thrown into a volcano. You'd very soon see people asking, "Why am I donating so much of my money just to feed the volcano?"
Don't have to imagine anything. See any number of televangelists who quite visibly spent money on useless self-benefitting bullshit and still managed to pull in the dough.
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Old 02-09-2014, 07:11 PM
The Second Stone The Second Stone is offline
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I always assumed that it was an allegory about how some kids at school are picked by their perceived weakness and destroyed so that everyone else can feel popular by comparison.
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Old 02-09-2014, 08:13 PM
Trinopus Trinopus is offline
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The Catholic Church did no such thing.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fasting...#United_States
Son of a bitch! I thought that all went out with the Latin Mass and a whole bunch of other antiquated shit! Wow! Thank you for setting me straight, even though it lowers my opinion of the church very significantly. (Can you still buy redemption from sins?)

Seriously...wow.
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Old 02-09-2014, 08:14 PM
Trinopus Trinopus is offline
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. . . Actually, the opposite is true. You have to show actual harm to society to change an institution, the inertia to leave it in place must be overcome. . . .
Well, that's part of my point. The institution does harm society, in a very obvious way.
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Old 02-09-2014, 11:25 PM
Incubus Incubus is offline
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When I first saw the trailer for the Hunger Games film, I mistakenly thought it was based on this short story. I had read the short story years ago, but hadn't heard of the Hunger Games books back then.

It would probably be tough to stretch out a short story like this into a feature-length film (much less a trilogy) though given how much hollywood loves sequels/trilogies/quadrilogies/bajillionilogies I wouldn't doubt they'd try!
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Old 02-10-2014, 05:26 AM
monstro monstro is offline
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When I first saw the trailer for the Hunger Games film, I mistakenly thought it was based on this short story. I had read the short story years ago, but hadn't heard of the Hunger Games books back then.

It would probably be tough to stretch out a short story like this into a feature-length film (much less a trilogy) though given how much hollywood loves sequels/trilogies/quadrilogies/bajillionilogies I wouldn't doubt they'd try!
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In addition to numerous reprints in magazines, anthologies and textbooks, "The Lottery" has been adapted for radio, live television, a 1953 ballet, films in 1969 and 1997, a TV movie, an opera, and a one-act play by Thomas Martin.
From http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Lottery.
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Old 02-10-2014, 08:34 AM
Justin_Bailey Justin_Bailey is offline
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Son of a bitch! I thought that all went out with the Latin Mass and a whole bunch of other antiquated shit! Wow! Thank you for setting me straight, even though it lowers my opinion of the church very significantly. (Can you still buy redemption from sins?)

Seriously...wow.
Huh?

What's so bad about no meat on Fridays?
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Old 02-10-2014, 08:57 AM
Elendil's Heir Elendil's Heir is offline
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Originally Posted by monstro View Post
The criticism misses the point. The story is all about the senselessness of ritual. If Jackson had spent pages on detailing the how and the why behind it, then she would have given credence and respectability to the whole thing and thus undermined the crux of the story.

The adherents of the Lottery do not question why they do what they do. The rite just is.
Well said.

The story was and is so shocking because it's set in an otherwise completely ordinary and unremarkable American small town. I don't think its setting is post-apocalyptic; the implication is that the lottery has endured in the present day (it was published in The New Yorker in 1948) even as the town has taken advantage of modern advances like vaccines, cars, electricity, etc.

It's fiction, and very well-written fiction. It blew me away when I first read it in high school. In the real world, though, I agree with Trinopus that it probably couldn't have lasted into the modern era. The Lottery is community-sanctioned ritual murder. All it would take to end it would be one exile from the town, or one grieving family member, calling in the state police.
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Old 02-10-2014, 09:13 AM
Dendarii Dame Dendarii Dame is offline
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Well said.

The story was and is so shocking because it's set in an otherwise completely ordinary and unremarkable American small town. I don't think its setting is post-apocalyptic; the implication is that the lottery has endured in the present day (it was published in The New Yorker in 1948) even as the town has taken advantage of modern advances like vaccines, cars, electricity, etc.

It's fiction, and very well-written fiction. It blew me away when I first read it in high school. In the real world, though, I agree with Trinopus that it probably couldn't have lasted into the modern era. The Lottery is community-sanctioned ritual murder. All it would take to end it would be one exile from the town, or one grieving family member, calling in the state police.
But this ritual takes place in (or has recently taken place in) other communities as well. The state police must know about this. Even in the 1940's, when this was published, there were cases of lynching which went unpunished, because that was "how things were done". I think this falls under the same category.
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Old 02-10-2014, 09:56 AM
astorian astorian is offline
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Remember that Shirley Jackson was an outsider in the community where she spent much of her life.

She was born in San Francisco, and grew up in a bookish family. She married a future literature critic, and was used to being around writers, artists and intellectuals. And then...

Look, TODAY Vermont is regarded as a liberal Utopia and Bennington is one of the most liberal towns in America. But when Jackson's husband took a faculty post at Bennington College, she was plopped into the middle of what was THEN an old-fashioned New England community she regarded as insular, backward, stifling, uncurious, conformist and overly bound to tradition.

Self-styled progressive Shirley saw all kinds of things in Vermont that made no sense to her, but which nobody would ever change because, by golly, "That's how we've ALWAYS done things."

An annual lottery where the "prize" is death isn't supposed to be realistic- it's just an extreme, exaggerated version of how Jackson perceived small town New England in the Forties and Fifties.

Last edited by astorian; 02-10-2014 at 10:00 AM..
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Old 02-10-2014, 12:51 PM
Chronos Chronos is offline
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To clarify about the Catholic Church's rules, it used to be the rule that you couldn't have meat on any Friday year-round, or on any day of the week during Lent. In the Second Vatican Council, this was changed to no meat on Fridays in Lent, but meat was fine on other Fridays and other Lent days. In both cases, before and after the change, "meat" is defined to exclude fish.

In any event, the point remains, in that many restaurants still have specials on fish on Fridays, year-round, and others have specials on fish during Lent, throughout the week. There may still be a practical reason for that, though: It might be impractical to have the specials just on Fridays in Lent when it "means something".
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Old 02-10-2014, 02:06 PM
Elendil's Heir Elendil's Heir is offline
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To clarify about the Catholic Church's rules, it used to be the rule that you couldn't have meat on any Friday year-round, or on any day of the week during Lent. In the Second Vatican Council, this was changed to no meat on Fridays in Lent, but meat was fine on other Fridays and other Lent days. In both cases, before and after the change, "meat" is defined to exclude fish....
And capybaras!

http://www.nysun.com/foreign/in-days...ck-into/11063/
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Capybara
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Old 02-10-2014, 02:24 PM
Kimballkid Kimballkid is offline
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To clarify about the Catholic Church's rules, it used to be the rule that you couldn't have meat on any Friday year-round, or on any day of the week during Lent. In the Second Vatican Council, this was changed to no meat on Fridays in Lent, but meat was fine on other Fridays and other Lent days. In both cases, before and after the change, "meat" is defined to exclude fish.

In any event, the point remains, in that many restaurants still have specials on fish on Fridays, year-round, and others have specials on fish during Lent, throughout the week. There may still be a practical reason for that, though: It might be impractical to have the specials just on Fridays in Lent when it "means something".
I'm not Catholic, but the way I read the following sentence from Justin_Bailey's link is that meat on Fridays is not acceptable at all unless you do some other form of penance.

"Every person 14 years of age or older must abstain from meat (and items made with meat) on all other Fridays of the year, unless he or she substitutes some other form of penance for abstinence."
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Old 02-10-2014, 02:32 PM
astorian astorian is offline
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Well, when I was a kid back in New York, whenever St. Paddy's Day happened to fall on a Friday, Bishop Mugavero invariably issued a decree that, this one time, it was okay to have corned beef and cabbage.
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Old 02-10-2014, 02:46 PM
nevadaexile nevadaexile is offline
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Human sacrifice would only be allowed when the wealthy and privileged in a community are not included in the pool of potential sacrifices.

Think that I'm wrong?

Sharia law calls for thieves hands to be cut off, yet there are no wealthy people in Iran or Saudi Arabia minus an appendage. China executed a number of drug addicts in the wake of Mao's takeover in 1949, although none of the upper echelon of the Chinese Communist party.

Jackson's "Lottery" would only work until it became clear that the "important" people in the community were excluded or could become victims. It would then either be discontinued; or it would become a ceremonial, rather than a practical, ritual.
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Old 02-10-2014, 03:43 PM
Elendil's Heir Elendil's Heir is offline
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But this ritual takes place in (or has recently taken place in) other communities as well. The state police must know about this. Even in the 1940's, when this was published, there were cases of lynching which went unpunished, because that was "how things were done". I think this falls under the same category.
Institutional racism held sway in entire states in the Deep South, true. But it's clear that the Lottery is much more localized, and is already being dropped in other nearby communities. Not quite analogous.
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Old 02-10-2014, 05:41 PM
Trinopus Trinopus is offline
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Huh?

What's so bad about no meat on Fridays?
Er... Nothing, I guess, it just seems strange to define "fish" as "not meat." Never mind. I had honestly thought it had been repealed along with the Latin Mass.

Ya un-learn somethin' every day...
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Old 02-10-2014, 05:50 PM
Trinopus Trinopus is offline
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. . . It's fiction, and very well-written fiction. It blew me away when I first read it in high school. . . .
Agreed. Powerful story, gripping, scary, eerie, and upsetting. It makes the reader think.

Quote:
The Lottery is community-sanctioned ritual murder. All it would take to end it would be one exile from the town, or one grieving family member, calling in the state police.
Well, it's probably legal, so the police wouldn't help. I say it wouldn't last because you will have a constantly growing community of friends and relatives of the victims, who would constitute a very active and emotionally involved opposition group, whereas there is no deeply-rooted group in favor.

You're pitting "This is wrong! This is murder! I'll never see my husband again!" against "Meh, it's how we've always done things. Why rock the boat?" Those in favor don't have any firm reason to maintain the tradition. Any "undecided" group would much more likely be swayed by the arguments of the opposition. In a democracy, the law would be repealed in very short order.

It's like Prohibition of alcohol: even if it seemed like a good idea at the time, the actual experience would be concluded to be an absolute failure.

In contrast, take Ursula K. LeGuin's "The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas." In that story, the rule is understood to be "Our happiness depends on the misery of the scapegoat." It is universally believed that one single act of kindness would destroy their civilization.

The Lottery might operate on that same universal consensus -- but the story doesn't go into enough detail to establish that. LeGuin went the extra mile. Jackson didn't.

Modern science fiction believes in better establishment of the premise; The Lottery wasn't so much a s.f. story as a "Twilight Zone" story. Ooh, twist ending, didn't see that coming! But, like most Twilight Zone stories, it unravels a little when examined closely.
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Old 02-10-2014, 06:15 PM
Elendil's Heir Elendil's Heir is offline
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...Well, it's probably legal, so the police wouldn't help. I say it wouldn't last because you will have a constantly growing community of friends and relatives of the victims, who would constitute a very active and emotionally involved opposition group, whereas there is no deeply-rooted group in favor....
I doubt it's even written down - seems to all be on the basis of custom and oral history - so it's not "legal." And the state police, that is, police from outside that town or county (for that matter, no police officer is mentioned among the townsfolk), would have no reason to uphold the tradition and every reason to shut it down.
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Old 02-10-2014, 10:02 PM
Trinopus Trinopus is offline
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Well...while that ain't how I interpret it...it's certainly true that, in such a case, the institution is impossible to maintain for any real period of time! As you say, somebody's going to come visiting their sister-in-law and observe the ritual, and then the cat is way out of the bag.

Or, as I've been saying, a victim's friends or family. They just killed mumsie: I think a visit to the State Capital is in order. Oh, yeah, and I've got photos, too. Let's see the Governor ignore this!
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Old 02-11-2014, 02:29 AM
Bryan Ekers Bryan Ekers is offline
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Heck, compared to the Children of the Corn, these people are downright sivilized.
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Old 02-11-2014, 03:37 AM
KarlGrenze KarlGrenze is offline
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Well...while that ain't how I interpret it...it's certainly true that, in such a case, the institution is impossible to maintain for any real period of time! As you say, somebody's going to come visiting their sister-in-law and observe the ritual, and then the cat is way out of the bag.

Or, as I've been saying, a victim's friends or family. They just killed mumsie: I think a visit to the State Capital is in order. Oh, yeah, and I've got photos, too. Let's see the Governor ignore this!
The friends and family are the first one to throw stones, and actively helped with the killing. Someone handed the youngest kid a rock to stone his mother, after all.
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Old 02-11-2014, 04:11 AM
WhyNot WhyNot is offline
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You're pitting "This is wrong! This is murder! I'll never see my husband again!" against "Meh, it's how we've always done things. Why rock the boat?" Those in favor don't have any firm reason to maintain the tradition. Any "undecided" group would much more likely be swayed by the arguments of the opposition. In a democracy, the law would be repealed in very short order.
I'm struggling to see how that same split doesn't effectively describe the abortion debate in our culture now. One side saying, "Holy crap, you're murdering babies! Stop it!" and other says, "No, not really, so stop rocking the boat."

I mean, I'm pro-choice, you know that, but that's how the argument must look to alien observers. When we read The Lottery, we're alien observers. We don't know the nuances and finer shades of argument, because Jackson wants us to remain alien observers.
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Old 02-11-2014, 10:29 AM
Justin_Bailey Justin_Bailey is offline
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I'm not Catholic, but the way I read the following sentence from Justin_Bailey's link is that meat on Fridays is not acceptable at all unless you do some other form of penance.

"Every person 14 years of age or older must abstain from meat (and items made with meat) on all other Fridays of the year, unless he or she substitutes some other form of penance for abstinence."
Right. Officially, "no meat on Fridays" refers to every Friday. That's why Friday Fish Fry is a thing at a variety of different restaurants. But it's only "enforced" (as much as you can enforce these things) during Lent.
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Old 02-11-2014, 04:11 PM
Trinopus Trinopus is offline
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I'm struggling to see how that same split doesn't effectively describe the abortion debate in our culture now. One side saying, "Holy crap, you're murdering babies! Stop it!" and other says, "No, not really, so stop rocking the boat."

I mean, I'm pro-choice, you know that, but that's how the argument must look to alien observers. When we read The Lottery, we're alien observers. We don't know the nuances and finer shades of argument, because Jackson wants us to remain alien observers.
I actually thought of mentioning this as a counter-example, because the abortion debate does have extremely strong emotions on both sides. The pro-choice side is far more involved than just "stop rocking the boat." That debate is a full-on, head-to-head conflict of extremely involved ideologies.

"The Lottery" doesn't even begin to explore the real human-nature emotional involvement of the people. No questions are asked, no justifications are offered. The story is a "punch-line" story. The set-up doesn't examine the real question, because that would give away the zinger at the end.

By the way, I'm actually Barack Obama, posting here in my spare time.
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  #49  
Old 02-11-2014, 05:06 PM
Bryan Ekers Bryan Ekers is offline
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no justifications are offered
But... but.... the corn! June!
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