Why is it that people undoubtedly obey the savage rules and customs even after witnessing the harmful and destructive effects it causes? People in the society are frequently punished for many reasons, but it is surprising to read that people sometimes blindfoldedly follow the traditions of killing people for entertainment or presumed fair trial. Traditions and customs mostly are a way to spend time with the members of your community but in the two stories by Shirley Jackson and Frank Stockton, the social norms are challenged when all the villagers outrageously kill one of their own.
While the foundation of both the descriptive works, “The Lottery” and “The Lady or the Tiger,” focus on the probability of good fortune, the authors use different symbols and writing styles, for leading the reader to the final appalling climax. Both the authors acknowledge the traditional values and ethics underlining the events that take place using symbols, and confirm the accepting attitude of the people towards them. “The Lottery” includes a symbolic object, the black box, which stores the name of every villager for a drawing that leads to a tragic demise every year.
The villagers full heartedly wish to continue the tradition which is validated when everybody dislikes the idea of making a new black box and also when Mrs. Hutchinson “…. [remembers] that it was the twenty seventh and [comes] running” (Jackson). It suggesting that the villagers want to uphold the tradition started by the people who had first settled in the village. The importance of having everyone present at the square is seen when Mr. Summer “[looks] at his list” to makes sure everyone is there, and the comment by Old Man Warner, “Pack of young fools” strongly support the importance of this drawing in the village (Jackson).
To further enhance the accepting attitude of the villagers, she begins the story with the detailed account of the preparations for the event. Jackson makes the reader aware of the excited child, Boby Martin who “… [makes] a great pile of stones in one corner… ” and is “soon [followed]” by other children. The collection of stones contributes to the excitement the villagers have for the event which s going to take place. Likewise, Stockton’s story, “The Lady or The Tiger” incorporates a symbolic human figure, the barbaric king, whose “one signal” leaves the villagers hanging between a tiger’s bite and an unwanted wife. Stockton exhibits the curiosity with which the people surround the arena assuring the reader that the people of the village are not against the ritual. The unjustifiable decision which either is a “bloody slaughter or a hilarious wedding”, amuses the villagers who are “entertained and pleased” by the unjust a man has to suffer (Stockton), which is totally inhumane and cold-hearted.
Even after years and years of this practice, people seem to enjoy the uncertainty of the result and accept the brutality by believing that the trial is fair because the entire decision is based on the door that the accused one chooses (Stockton). This suggests that the villagers are aware of the king’s pitiless attitude and still continue to be a part of his cruel acts. So every time the king decides to penalize a person for an irrational reason, the whole village comes and joins him with their eyes fixed on the arena to watch the person on the trial fight his fate.
Though the stories share a commonality in the devastating events, Jackson and Stockton use different devices and structure to portray their stories. Jackson illustrates the mini details of the village: the blossoming flowers, green grass, and the time square where people gather, for setting up a platform for a shocking conclusion. Moreover, she foreshadows the rigorous end by keeping the reader unaware about the true purpose of the lottery.
The collection of stones as an innocent play and the excitement among the villagers, directs the reader into a happier ending, which concludes to be inaccurate. She gives a minor clue to the reader when Mrs. Hutchinson says, “[Mr. Summer] didn’t give [Bill] enough time to choose” (Jackson). Logically, if it was a lottery for an award, she would have been happy but she was rather protesting, which confuses the reader. In addition to this, “the black dot” creates erring thoughts in the reader’s mind, as a black dot usually signifies guilt.
The truth is not revealed until the first stone hits Tessie, and she screams, “It’s not fair,” when the villagers forget about her as being a part of the village and stone her to death (Jackson). Besides foreshadowing, Jackson uses many dialogues in the text to make the reader well informed about the state of mind of the characters in the story, like repeatedly presenting the hurry with which Mr. Summers wants to get over with the ritual. On the other hand, instead of keeping the purpose of the event undisclosed, Stockton retains the future of the young lover, and lets the reader decide his fate.
Stockton makes the reader aware of the tradition in the very beginning by presenting the two “twin doors, those fateful portals, so terrible in their similarity,” which hide the dreadful death or the undesired wedding. Stockton mostly writes in third person, and frequently comments on the barbaric king, the villagers, the lover, and the especially the princess for challenging the reader to make a smart choice. In addition to the writing structure, she uses the word “barbaric” repeatedly to highlight the ignorance of the people towards the king’s inhumanity, which the villagers seem to neglect and support the king’s way of providing justice.
This tradition is so vague because who knows how many times an innocent person became a tiger’s dinner or a criminal happily married a beautiful lady. All the comments, and the narrative leads the reader to a very exciting end but the uncertain end leaves the reader anxious and agitated. “The Lottery” and “The Lady or the Tiger,” have both forced the reader to feel disgusted about the characters in the stories, as they all very casually go against the norms.
They all become a part of an unethical and evil conduct and none of them is capable enough to bring about a change because they all believe that it is a necessity for keeping their tradition alive. The people cannot notice that what they are doing is cruel and unnecessary. Though the reader is unhappy about the end, there is still some happiness on realizing that it is just a fictional story. Crimes still continue to exist today, but now our governments usually make sure nobody is denied from their rights and definitely do not treat the criminals with such ruthlessness.