Most of Shirley Jackson’s works focused on human behavior and psychological analysis. Duality, madness, and evil are recurring themes in many of her works. Her best-known short story “The Lottery ” depicts the theme of the duality of human nature. People from a typical village stone an innocent person every year in town for the sake of an annual ritual. In this short story, duality of human nature manifests in “The Lottery” when Jackson asks whether all humans are capable of cruelty and explores how the natural inclinations of humans can be justified by emphasizing the structure and tradition of society. Philosophers are constantly questioning the basic structure of human nature through the ages: does human nature have duality? Are humans fundamentally good or evil?
In the short story “The Lottery” Jackson has urged the same questions through the depiction of an ordinary town people who are capable of unusual violence but still they are living a satisfying life. This literary analysis provides details on how the duality of human nature manifests in the short story “The Lottery” which is intentionally designed to seem timeless and universal.
The short story starts with an annual ritual in a typical village. When a reader starts reading it seems like someone is going to win money as the title of the story is the lottery. However, it takes a dark turn when the event is revealed that it is not about money but this was a traditional annual ritual where everyone in town got together to stone a victim whose name was picked from the lottery. “Well, now. ” Mr Summers said soberly, “guess we better get started, get this over with, so we can go back to work. Anybody ain’t here?” The ending of the story shocked many readers when the story was first published in New York, so the duality of human nature manifests in “The Lottery”
The event of the lottery shows the duality of human nature and how they are capable of having two sides of the same coin. Typical villagers follow horrible, gory, and weird, traditions based on superstition only because their ancestors used to do this ritual. “Listening to the young folks, Next thing you know, they’ll be wanting to go back to living in caves, nobody works anymore. There’s always been a lottery because of this the corn will be heavy soon, Old Man Warner said”. So, Jackson discloses that the people in the village have no humanity as everyone is still permitting the lottery, without thinking about killing. They are training their children as “Someone gave little Davy Hutchinson a few pebbles” to stone his mother Hutchinson.
The brutal ending of the story suggests that humans have a dual nature. They are ready to do great cruelty as long as their decision will not harm them directly. Even Tessie Hutchison was not against the annual ritual until she was signed out. “it isn’t fair, it isn’t right,” but now this objection has no voice as it was raised too late.
In conclusion: Jackson criticizes the nature of humans that we humans follow the same weird and horrible traditions if only a majority is willing to do so, without caring either action may have extreme consequences. Tessie Hutchinson was in the center of a cleared space by now. “It isn’t fair,” she said. But everyone has decided to stone, so a stone hit her on the side of the head. Old Man Warner was saying, “Come on, come on, everyone.” The story provokes the fundamental abnormality and duality of people in their nature. With this example of the lottery, Jackson draws the reader’s attention to the universality of the ideas. So, Jackson suggests the existence of such types of violence anywhere, must be due to some innate aspect of human nature.