In Tuan’s chapter of “Mythical Space and Place” he mentions how people created symbolic meanings for many different things such as cardinal directions and visible celestial bodies (Tuan93-95). It shows how nothing has meaning until we give it meaning and anything can be unimportant until it’s acknowledged as something to be withheld in our hearts. In doing so we create our own world that may not make sense scientifically but it makes sense morally and it sure as hell allows people to live way more comfortably or uncomfortably than they would have thought possible.
In Shirley Jackson’s “The Lottery” we see Tuan’s concept of symbolic meaning given to something during the actual Lottery in the story. The lottery itself is a tradition that takes place every summer on the 27th of June in a certain few towns. During the lottery the entire town gathers where each family takes one folded paper from a black box. Whoever gets the devilish paper with the black dot on it gets the privilege to be stoned mindlessly by the entire town including friends and family. It’s a traditional event that’s fun for the whole family with the exception of the person being stoned. In the story we see how people gave such a powerful symbolic meaning to this ridiculous lottery even though they detest it deep down. Nobody goes against it and acts as if it were a normal yearly event that mustn’t be missed. Beneath the acting we see the villagers dislike the lottery when we see Mrs. Hutchinson arriving late to the lottery (Jackson 249). She makes excuses as to why she was late even though you could tell she really didn’t want to partake in the event itself. We also hear a few people murmuring among the townsfolk gossiping about how other villages were “considering giving up the lottery” (Jackson 250). Over here we see how a manmade symbol can become an object of fear as they were almost testing their peers to see who might happen to agree that giving up the lottery might be a good idea.
Obviously nobody really likes this whole lottery business and it serves no purpose except to withhold ancient tradition. It’s apparent that people in the past got a real kick out of stoning the people around them legally and I wouldn’t be surprised if there was a lottery every week. It most likely served the purpose of pinpointing the people who were evil among the village and cleansing them with by bludgeoning their faces with jagged earthen clasts. This story shows just how unreasonable people can be when it comes to long time symbolic traditions. They’d even harm their own family if it meant withholding proper ancient traditions that seemed to be all the rage at the time. Also, I laughed at the end of the story, didn’t expect the lottery to result in a stoning of all things.