Inside the short story called “The Lottery” by Shirley Jackson, the townspeople gather around the village square every June 27th to announce the winner. Yet, once the winner is picked the prize turns out to be not as good as the winner thinks; the winner of the town’s lottery gets stoned to death. Though the plot seems to focus on the town, the story concentrates its attention on a few major and minor characters: Mr. Summers, The Mayor; Old Man Warner, who’s played the Lottery for seventy-seven years; and finally, The Hutchinsons, The Adams, and the Dunbars. In addition to the main characters, certain themes are introduced. For example, the concepts of sacrifice, tradition, social grouping and obedience to authority later become noticeable as the characters continue to interact with the story, later causing Solomon Asch and Stanley Milgram to perform psychological and sociological trials which help to support the mysteries behind group thinking and obligation. These studies by Solomon Asch and Staley Milgram likewise help to explain the psychological and sociological traits of the characters in the story. While the ending may seem baffling, many readers ask the question “Why did the townspeople participate in this act of immorality regardless of their knowing that it’s wrong to kill another?”By the story’s end, many readers try to explain as well as examine the town’s motives behind stoning Mrs. Hutchinson, to answer this question we turn to the principle of Ethics, basically Utilitarianism, “the happier, the more people.” One theory suggests the townsfolk lacked the concept of moral ethics, ones cultural beliefs and practices applied to various situations (Pojman, 2). Though the townsfolk acted immorally through some degree, they however, by some standards do behave morally. The problem is that they do not behave permissibly in the event of Tessie’s win, when it came to the stoning scene, not one of the members stood up diligently and bravely against this heinous act, including Mrs. Hutchinson’s Family. Yet morally, the people follow the Lottery’s traditional procedures: The name picking, The Mayor choosing, the gathering of the Town, and also the construction of a new box. For the people, tradition was their god and a sacrifice had to be made in order to appease that god so that fertility reigned once more, Old Man Warner states this symbolism rehearsing the old saying, “Lottery in June, Corn be Heavy Soon.” Additionally, when the Adams announced to the others that their neighbors abandoned this supposed tradition due to its cruel results, they too, like Old Man Warner, turned a blind eye away from The Adams’ announcement and continued to proceed with the Lottery. Thus ignorance became another reason for Tessie Hutchinson’s death. In short, the people killed her because they were naïve and forgot the value of right and wrong. Yet, there’s more to this story than meets the eye.
Aside from their lacking towards applying the concepts of right and wrong to certain wrongful situations, Solomon Asch provides another reason for their immoral act, group thinking. In his experiment, tests how frequently the experimental subjects would agree with the group. As it turns out, the tested subjected agreed with the group 36% of the time. As a result, Asch is shocked to come to find out that we, as a people, would often follow a group’s opinion as opposed to our own. Asch seems to believe that their choices were caused by, one characteristic, group thinking. Because the subject feared being wrong and isolated or inquizitated by the group, they inturn went along with the group’s answers. Asch’s experiments help us to coin the phrase the inexcusable saying, “Everyone else was doing it.”.
Besides Solomon Asch’s evidence of social grouping as being one of the motives behind the stoning of Bill Hutchinson’s wife, and the need to feel remorse and pity, as well as the requirement to be familiar with the terms of fair law, injustice, and “just and unjust.”Stanley Milgram also offers another source for the lack of disobedience towards her death, the loss of diversity between negative and positive sanctioning due to the need for enforcement and analyzing change within their society and its norms, to summarize, progression and authorization. The Adams best exhibit this essential to change when they mention of their neighboring villages stopping the usage of Lottery. Yet, Warner feels that if they turn to this method, they’ll become les that humane and go back to the old days of stone and bones and like him the others follow in the tradition. In his experiment, Milgram sets the stage for three basic characters for his test of obedience over authority. He uses an electric generator as the punisher and a teacher, an instructor, a student for taking a word test. Shocks are applied at different levels. They range from low to high; the highest signifying death. The teacher pulls the levers unbeknownst that the trial isn’t real and is used to test the sanity and willingness of the assistant towards the leader’s reaction. 25 of the 40 participants disobeyed due to stress, or the fear of harming someone; only two of the assistants and 60% of Yale students followed through with the assessment saying, “That they were happy to help” for their obligation was not just to the commandments, and the leader’s content expressions, but to the duty’s means at hand. In the end, only moral and language helped to resolve these tests results, as it could have done for her and the next winner. And even though didn’t have the make look and appearance of a leader, he, however, was a leader through his entitlement as an officer of the lottery through his conduction on most of the drawings initiations, management of the coal business, and the lotteries’ sequence, from beginning to end. Milgram deems that the people stoned her because they wanted to please their leader or instructor, Mr. Summers.
The story told by Shirley Jackson features characters whose actions are best clarified by the concepts of Sociology, Psychology, and Ethics, and various symbolisms which all intertwine within the parable’s scheme and play a valuable role in the explication towards Mrs. Hutchinson, her death, and the people’s basis as to why. For Solomon Asch, group thinking, where one person begets the value of self-confidence, mistake correction, and overall positive outcome in hopes of not being neglected, ostracized, or denounced for their alleged guess. For Stanley Milgram, the choice in obeying or disobeying the law or an officer’s orders which involve the well-being and life of a person, yet the ideal of obligation goes a long and wrong way when one is unaware or selfish of the action’s cost. Yet, for Morality, if a strict and just law is unstated and an object or procedure of ritual becomes that of bylaw, subsequently, the result will end in a catastrophe which can’t be taken back for good measures. And as for the concerning significance of choice and self-awareness, since the town valued culture and duty more than a life, the two were of no value because both the Lottery and Mr. Summers assumed the position of “God and Governor.” Whatever the reason for her death, Tessie Hutchinson was innocent. Its one thing when a person says “because it was my job”, but when a multitude goes along with it, then it turns into a massacre. We must remember that in every situation, there’s always the right way out. But it is up to us to see to it that a good way to spare a life is without fear or ignorance, but with courage and a strong heart. Mrs. Hutchinson could’ve been saved, and so can the lives of many others if one reads through the passages of the Lottery and see that disobedience is good for the right reasons. For it is in this lesson we learn, “Two wrongs don’t make a right.”
Asch, Solomon E. “Opinions and Social Pressure.” Writing and Reading Across The Curriculum. Ed. Laurence Behrens and Leonard L. Rosen. 10th ed. New York: Long 2008. 351-7.
Jackson, Shirley. “The Lottery.” Classic Short Fiction. Ed. Charles H. Bohner. Englewood Cliffs: Prentice-Hall, 1986. 470-5.Pojman, Louis P. “Moral Philosophy.” Ethics: Discovering Right and Wrong. Clark Hall: Wadsworth, 2006.