March 9, 2011
In the short story “The Lottery” by author Shirley Jackson, we can see the relation between her work and Tuan’s chapter “Mythical Space and Place” when it comes to traditions kept by people. Focusing on Tuan’s principles, we can identify what kind of values the town that Jackson illustrates for her audience.
“Two principles kinds of mythical space can be distinguished. In the one, mythical space is a fuzzy area of defective knowledge surrounding the empirically known…In the other it is the spatial component of a world view, a conception of localized values within which people carry on their practical activities” (Tuan 86). The first principle mentioned, can relate to the town’s tradition of sacrifice for a good harvest. However, the fading of this ritual poses an unfair advantage to the stoners for the unfortunate. In this case, it was Tessie Hutchinson that was to be stoned to death. Nobody really remembered the ritual but remember the violence involved as said by the narrator, “Although the villagers had forgotten the ritual and lost the original black box, they still remembered to use stones” (Jackson 232). This illustrates the inhuman values that the town holds for something that cannot be proven.
Following the second principle Tuan states, if brought to other perspectives outside that town, it would be seen as barbaric and unjust. The village that resides close to them are discussing about abandoning the lottery and already getting grief from the village that keeps the tradition alive. A character by the name of Old Man Warner gives his opinions once told of the news, “Pack of crazy fools…Listening to the young folks, nothing’s good enough for them. Next thing you know, they’ll be wanting to go back to living in caves, nobody work anymore, live that way for a while”(Jackson 250) In a way, Old Man Warner contradicts his own opinion, because how is it that if the village was to abandon this tradition, they’d be heading back to the stone age where it was considered barbaric? Whereas this tradition has been kept for a very long time within the town and this form of capital punishment can be timed back to the ancient times as a way to keep a society more structured. He is criticizing the ancient times whereas this tradition is “ancient”.
Coming back to Tuan’s theory in relation to this story, what makes something mythical is the unknown. What goes beyond our knowledge is what we make up in order to fill that void of the unknown. To the village that keeps this tradition, how can they associate the fact that if they don’t get a good harvest, it is because everyone remaining in the village is at fault some way or another. Therefore they must weed out the bad omen. It doesn’t make sense to the world but it does to them. Jackson definitely executed Tuan’s theory by mentioning herself for the purpose of writing this short story “to shock the story’s readers with a graphic demonstration of the pointless violence and general inhumanity in their own lives” (Introduction of the Author 247)