The Lottery by Shirley Jackson is story about brutal tradition of a lottery that the whole town takes part in, if your name is drawn in the lottery, you are brutally stoned to death. The tradition, which is more like Russian roulette than a lottery, has been going on for over seventy seven years as far as the reader knows. The town and the tradition are solely driven by males, and there is a lot of evidence in the text that suggests the idea that males are responsible for the tradition entirely. There is no doubt that The Lottery is at least in part a criticism of the male driven society in America.
In the story it is clear that women have an inferior position to men. The three wealthiest and most powerful people in town are men, Mr. Summers, Mr. Graves and Mr. Martin, and the women don’t seem to have much of an official say in anything. Also the “head” of the family, who is a male, has to draw from the first round of the lottery. So power in the village, then, is exclusively in the hands of the males. Women are dependent on them and powerless. Even the sons take precedence over their mothers. When the Watson boy draws for his mother “Several voices in the crowd said things like “Good fellow, Jack” and “Glad to see your mother’s got a man to do it.”(568) giving the message that grown boys are given more power and are more respected than their mothers. This method of conducting the tradition guarantees the role of women in their society to stay as it is for as long as imaginable.
When it’s time for the lottery the women are described as “wearing faded housedresses and sweaters, (and coming) shortly after their menfolk.”(565) The dress gives the idea that the role of women in the story is mostly that of a housewife. More evidence of this claim is when Mrs. Hutchinson says “Wouldn’t have me leave m’dishes in the sink, now would you, Joe?” (567). The society in the story as far as the role of women and men goes is somewhat similar to that of American society in 1948, when the story was published, meaning that the savage society run by the men in the town that Jackson describes may have been a criticism of modern patriarchal society of that era.
Prior to the lottery proceedings the three most important men are in charge of the box and setting up the lottery, therefore they are responsible for continuing the tradition. They have the power to stop the killings, but they choose not to. The boys “made a great pile of stones in one corner of the square” (564) while the girls stood aside. This quote shows that again, the males contribute to the lottery, while the women stand by. Aside from the tradition of the lottery Jackson’s depiction of a “normal” town is shockingly realistic, and it brings the issues sometimes overlooked like male dominance, victimization and tradition down to earth.