Saturday, April 2, 2011

Tessie Hutchinson in "The Lottery"

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Tessie Hutchinson in “The Lottery”

Tessie Hutchinson is a middle-aged housewife and mother of four children. She is the unfortunate scapegoat/victim of the annual village lottery. Being late for the lottery, making rebellious remarks, and questioning the rules of the lottery are all hints that set Tessie up to be the lottery’s victim. She represents one of few voices of rebellion in a village controlled by tradition and complacency. Her low status as a woman has led many critics to state that Tessie’s fate illustrates the authority of men over women.

Tessie is a woman whose role as a housewife deprived her of her freedom by forcing her to submit to a husband who gains his power over her by virtue of his place in the work force. Tessie, however, rebels against her role, and such rebellion is just what the orderly functioning of her society cannot stand. The villagers believe, unconsciously, that their commitment to a work ethic will grant them some magical immunity from selection.

Tessie’s rebellion begins with her late arrival at the lottery. She explains to Joe Summers, the administrator of the lottery, that she was doing dishes and forgot what day it was. This could be interpreted as violating the village’s work ethic and neglecting her specific job within the village’s social division of labor, which the lottery actually reinforces. In Peter Kosenko’s research, he believes the selection of Tessie Hutchinson as the lottery’s scapegoat shows us the unconscious connection that the villagers draw between the lottery and their work ethic.

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When Tessie realizes that her husband holds the unlucky slip, she cries out that the process was not fair. The reader learns at this moment that the lottery does not offer a reward or prize in the traditional sense. She claims her husband had to rush to choose the slip of paper and that her daughter and son-in-law should be included in the following round of drawing. She is the only one who rebels against male domination. Each remark she makes evokes nervous laughter from the crowd, which sense the taboo that she has violated.

When Tessie draws the paper with the deadly black mark on it, she does not show it to the crowd; instead her husband Bill forces it from her hand and holds it up. By holding up her slip, Bill Hutchinson reasserts his dominance over his wayward wife and simultaneously transforms her into a symbol to others of the perils of disobedience. Bill’s unquestioning acceptance of the results of the lottery, despite the victim being his own wife, emphasizes the brutality the villagers are willing to carry out in the name of tradition.

Tessie’s rebellion, being entirely unconscious, is revealed by her cry while being stoned, “It isn’t fair, it isn’t right.” Tessie does not object to the lottery, only to her own selection as it’s scapegoat. It would have been fine if someone else had been selected. Perhaps the village might have chosen Tessie if the lottery had been, in fact, an election.

Works Cited

Jackson, Shirley, “The Lottery,” Literature: An Introduction to Fiction, Poetry,

and Drama. Ed. X. J. Kennedy and Dana Gioia. 8th ed. New York: Longman,

2002. pg. 254-261.

http://galenet.galegroup.com, “The Lottery” by Shirley Jackson, Plot Summary,

Discovering Authors.

www.netwood.net, “A Reading of Shirley Jackson’s “The Lottery,” Peter Kosenko.

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