The Lottery


English Essay


Shirley Jacksonís "The Lottery" and Ursula K. LeGuinís "The Ones That Walk Away From Omelas" are two very similar stories. Both stories leave the readerís stomach in a knot and end with an unexpected ironic twist. These two stories resemble each other in several different ways.


Both stories involve a scapegoat. In each story, the community sacrifices one person in order to gain something for the community as a whole. In "The Ones That Walk Away From Omelas," one child must be tortured for his entire life so that the rest of the community may enjoy a Utopian society. Similarly, in "The Lottery" the community chooses one person each year to be stoned so that the seasonís crops will be plentiful.


Another similarity is that in both stories the people of the community turn their heads and wash their hands of the responsibility for the termination of these cruel rituals. In "The Lottery," no one does anything to stop the heartless tradition of stoning, despite its horrific nature. In fact, many members of the community treat the period of gathering before the actual stoning as a social event. In " The Ones Who Leave Omelas," people watch the disgusting spectacle of a young child being tortured all his life and say nothing.


In both stories, the communities fear change. Both communities must know that they can change their respective traditions. Many of the people who live in the communities in both stories must recognize the cruelty of their actions, but this realization is overpowered by the fear of the consequences of changing or eliminating the age‑old customs. The people in "The Lottery" kill a member of the community to ensure good crops. To the average person, this superstitious practice sounds both sick and cruel. However, no one in the community suggests eliminating the tradition because of fear, fear that if the custom is curtailed the crops will not be abundant enough to support the community. In "The Ones Who Leave Omelas," the people feel pain for the young child suffering, but no one does anything to stop it, because they are also afraid. They are afraid that their Utopian society will not continue to exist if they stop adhering to custom. The people in both stories fear change.


These stories reflect events that go on in our own society. Maybe our communities do not stone or starve people, but in smaller aspects we commit the same crimes. All across America, people do the equivalent of stoning and starving for the same reasons. Americans often turn their heads when it comes to certain things that they feel bad about, but are afraid to do anything about.