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If Summers wears jeans, in order to convince the villagers that he is just another one of the common people, he also wears a "clean white shirt," a garment more appropriate to class (p. If he leans casually on the black box before the lottery selection begins, as a President, say, might put his feet up on the White House desk, while leaning he talk[s] interminably to Mr. Martin, who responds, is the third most powerful man in the village.Graves and the Martins," the other members of his class, and "seem[s] very proper and important" (p. Jackson has placed these last details in emphatic position at the end of a paragraph.) Finally, however democratic his early appeal for help in conducting the lottery might appear--"some of you fellows want to give me a hand? Summers' question is essentially empty and formal, since the villagers seem to understand, probably unconsciously, the unspoken rule of class that governs who administers the lottery; it is not just The lottery's democratic illusion, then, is an ideological effect that prevents the villagers from criticizing the class structure of their society.No mere "irrational" tradition, the lottery is an . Martin steadies the lottery box as the slips are stirred (p. In the off season, the lottery box is stored either at their places of business or their residences: "It had spent on year in Mr. That such a relationship does exist is suggested by one of the most revealing lines of the text.
(New social formations adapt old traditions to their own needs.) Women in the village seem to be disenfranchised because male heads of households, as men in the work force, provide the link between the broader economy of the village and the economy of the household. Jack Watson, on the other hand, whose father is dead, is clearly older than Horace and presumably already in the work force.Women, who have no direct link to the economy as defined by capitalism--the arena of activity in which labor is exchanged for wages and profits are made--choose in the lottery only in the absence of a "grown," working male. When Tessie Hutchinson appears late to the lottery, other men address her husband Bill, "here comes your Missus, Hutchinson" (p. None of the men, that is to say, thinks of addressing Tessie first, since she "belongs" to Bill.Women, then, have a distinctly subordinate position in the socio-economic hierarchy of the village. Most women in the village take this patriarchal definition of their role for granted, as Mrs. Delacroix's references to their husbands as their "old [men]" suggests (pp. Tessie, as we shall see later, is the only one who rebels against male domination, although only unconsciously.Some consideration of other single household families in the first round of the lottery--the Dunbars and the Watsons--will help make this relationship between economics and family power clearer. Dunbar, unable to attend the lottery because he has a broken leg, has to choose by proxy. Dunbar's son Horace, however, is only sixteen, still presumably in school and not working; hence Mrs. Admittedly, such inferences cannot be supported with hard textual evidence, but they make sense when the text is referred to the norms of the society which it addresses.The rules of lottery participation take this situation into account: "gown boy[s]" take precedence as proxies over wives (p. males and get their power from their insertion into a larger economy. Their dresses indicate that they do in fact work, but because they work in the home and not within the larger economy in which work is regulated by money, they are treated by men and treat themselves as inferiors.Graves says, "[takes] the same chance" seems eminently democratic, even if its effect, the singing out of one person for privilege or attack, is not. suggests 'election' rather than selection," since "the [villagers] assemble in the center of the place, in the village square." I would like to push the analogy further.One critic, noting an ambiguity at the story's beginning, has remarked that "the lottery . In capitalist dominated elections, business supports and promotes candidates who will be more or less attuned to its interests, multiplying its vote through campaign financing, while each individual businessman can claim that he has but one vote.It is reenacted year after year, then, not because it is a mere "tradition," as Helen Nebeker argues, but because it serves the repressive ideological function of purging the social body of all resistance so that business (capitalism) can go on as usual and the Summers, the Graves and the Martins can remain in power. The first of these rules I have already explained, of course: those who control the village economically and politically also administer the lottery.The remaining rules also tell us much about who has and who doesn't have power in the village's social hierarchy. Students should discuss the essay with each other and in their classrooms. Students and teachers are free to copy and quote it for scholarly purposes, but publishers should contact me before they reprint it for profit.