This is a story about a small rural village
that holds its annual lottery. All of the
families in the village participate and the
lottery starts by one representative from
each family pulling a piece of paper from
A man named Bill Hutchinson has pulled the
paper with the black dot, but his wife, Tessie,
objects, saying that he didn’t have enough
time to pick. Despite her protest, each member
of the Hutchinson family, five in total, is
required to pull slips of paper out of the
box again to see who gets the black spot.
In the end, Mrs. Hutchinson gets the black
spot and is stoned to death as per tradition
of the lottery.
As always, a lot can be said about this story,
but what draws my interest and attention is
the idea that sometimes traditions can be
dangerous in hindering progress and growth.
This is not to say that traditions are all
bad and that we should always try to invent
new customs. Traditions serve an important
role in our society. Holidays, for instance,
remind us of family and continually slow people
down from their busy lives and schedules.
But as society changes, traditions should
look to evolve instead of staying stagnant.
This means taking select qualities of the
old tradition and incorporating new ideas.
The identity of the tradition is not something
else entirely, just modified.
In the story, Old Man Warner is against change,
even though other towns have stopped doing
the lottery. He represents the ideology that
current tradition is the best and that if
it isn’t broken, don’t fix it.
Other communities have recognized that stoning
one individual a year is unnecessary, yet
this town remains closed-minded.
Likewise, what happens if the original tradition
was broken in the first place? What if new
ways of doing things now become available?
Do we still stick with the ways of the past?
Again, traditions are important, but they
deserve an audit every now and then. It’s
a refining and evolving that will keep the
roots of the tradition alive, while engaging
the current generation in those roots.
So, let me know what you think about the story
in the comments below.
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