Word Count: 619Repressing Challenges to Order
The rigid structure of society reinforces order and promotes conformity of all classes, but an individual contradicting established customs poses a threat. Shirley Jackson, the author of The Lottery, conveys that rebellious impulses of humans are repressed by society to maintain a rigid social order.
The lottery enforces an unfair distinction in class status between men and women. Women are subordinate in the social power structure of the village, as shown when Mrs. Hutchinson’s family is chosen in the first round. Objecting that her daughter and son-in-law “didn’t take their chance,” (562) Mr. Summers reminds her that “daughters draw with their husbands’ families,” (562) showing that power is exclusively held in the hands of males in families. Women, as inferior housewives, must submit to their husbands’ power over them because as men in the work force, they link to the community economically and provide for family. Mrs. Hutchinson, however, rebels against this male domination. Arriving late, she raises suspicions of resistance to everything the lottery represents. When her family name is called, she pushes her husband, “Get up there, Bill.” (561) In doing so, she acts rebelliously, ironically contradicting custom by reversing the accepted power relation between husbands and wives. In her name Hutchinson, Jackson alludes to the religious reformer Anne Hutchinson, who, because she was a woman preacher, was considered a threat to society and strict Puritan laws. She was banished from her society, as Tessie is stoned and eliminated. In this way, Jackson shows that rebellion of a place in society is repressed.
In addition to the reinforcement of a firm division between the genders, the institution of the lottery maintains the structure of society by motivating work. A fear is instilled that lack of productivity will cause one to be selected in the next lottery and banished from the common group. The village reveals this fear in their questions after the first round: “Who is it? Who’s got it? Is it the Dunbars? Is it the Watsons?” (562) The Dunbars and the Watsons are the least productive families in the village, with Mr. Dunbar’s leg broken and Mr. Watson dead. This unconscious fear that uselessness determines the lottery’s “winner” produces incentive for diligent work. The human impulses of rebellion and questioning are redirected in anger at rebels, as the Adamses’ brief suggestion that the lottery might be given up is crushed by Warner, who emphatically says:
Pack of crazy fools, listening to young folks, nothing’s good enough for them. Next think you know, they’ll be wanting to go back to living in caves, nobody work any more, live that way for a while. Used to be a saying about ‘Lottery in June, corn be heavy soon.’ (561)
Jackson demonstrates society’s belief that without the lottery as a symbol of a suppressing threat to cause fear, there would be no motivation to work. Because there is a fear, work is done and society and order are preserved.
Terrorizing society into conformity starts very early, as seen in this story as well as throughout history. Davy Hutchinson is given pebbles to stone his mother, learning what to do before understanding why he does it. In the same way, schoolchildren are impressed with connotations of historical figures without even knowing why. This is comparable to Hitler’s Youth, where Hitler bred Nazis and anti-Semitists from children. Although institutions may not go as far as Hitler, thinking on one’s own mind has become rare in society’s subtle goal to repress individuality and challenges to order.