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Answer these questions (one paragraph or two is enough for each)
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1. Stoning has a long history and brings up a number of implications. Why do you suppose Jackson chose this particular method of sacrifice for the “winner” of the lottery?
2. I said in the lecture that the structure of this story is similar to a joke or a magic trick in that it needs to have a distraction and then “punch line” at the end. Is the story successful in this regard? Are you sufficiently surprised by the ending? If not, when do you first begin to suspect that this is not the usual kind of lottery? What gives it away?
3. What do you think is the point of Old Man Warner’s comment about how people aren’t the way they used to be? He seems to be the voice of conservatism (as in keeping things the way they are). He also calls the towns who have gotten rid of the lottery a “pack of crazy fools.” What special significance does his character have to the story?
And respond to these comments in one paragraph each (about the reading)
First comment: Jackson’s use of stoning in The Lottery is peculiar for two reasons. The first is the fact that stoning is an ancient tradition that helps serve to give a sense of tradition to the town. The second is that stoning is inherently an intimate way of execution and as a result, creates a sense of fear and urgency within the town.
Using an ancient tradition in a town that is presumably in the mid-19th century as opposed to more “modern” methods like hanging gives credence to age of the town. (The town, while neither named nor dated, can be dated somewhere around the middle of the industrial revolution due to the fact that there is a coal mine in the town.) By using an ancient method of execution, Jackson also reinforces the fact that the Lottery is a tradition that, while has lost most of its grandeur, persists despite the passage of time. If anything, the act of stoning is the only original characteristic of the lottery that has remained unchanged since it’s inception. The box, the wooden chips and the ceremony have all changed, but the final act remains unchanged. It could be said that a stone represents something that is unchanging. The lottery is a like a stone in that sense as both remain more or less unchanged as time progresses.
Moving on to the intimacy of stoning. Compared to other methods of execution, stoning is one of the most intimate because everyone in the community must take part in it. It is not as if you are simply pulling a lever or giving a push. Rather you are physically throwing the stones that will end this person’s life. This creates a sense of fear within the community as it is horrifying to think that this could be you next year. Furthermore, it scares and motivates everyone in the town to live to a higher standard as the threat of death is always hanging over them. One might say that the threat of death would cause general anarchy within the town, but the contrary appears to happen in the story. Instead there is a feeling that this town has order and everyone is living in relative harmony with one another.
Second comment: When it comes to the execution method used in The Lottery, none seems to be more fitting than a stoning. From the beginning of the story, Jackson makes it clear that everyone in the town “anticipates” lottery day. This not simply saying that the townspeople look forward to a day where they get to collectively kill someone, it also represent the giddiness of playing a game of chance with their own lives. Using stoning as an execution method plays perfectly to the high risk high reward ideology. When you are not selected as victim, you get to be part of the greater whole that dishes out the “punishment.” Even the children, who prepare for the event by collecting only the finest of rocks and stones, partake in the activity. The executioner can never be formally identified, except as an entire group of people. The “winner” of the lottery would have the opposite mindset had he/she been among the safe. Using a cheap, reliable method like this portrays the town’s focus as “we’re all in this together, until, given the chance, I can stab you in the back.” It personalizes the relationship between the characters: Who better to kill you then 200 of your closest friends?