Compare And Contrast Essay Of The Lottery

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Comparing "The Lottery by Shirley Jackson" and "The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas" by Ursula K. Le Guin

   The differences between "The Lottery" by Shirley Jackson and "The Ones

Who Walk Away from Omelas" by Ursula K. Le Guin seem relatively minor when

compared to the striking similarities they contain in setting, symbols, and


      Each of the stories begin with a description of a beautiful summer day.

"The flowers were blooming profusely and the grass was richly green"(para 1) in

"The Lottery" is quite comparable to "old moss-grown gardens and under avenues

of trees"(para 1) in "...Omelas."  These descriptions (along with several

others) provide positive connotations and allow the reader to relax into what

seems to be a comfortable setting in either story.  Both stories also contain a

gathering of townspeople.  In "...Omelas there is music, dance, and special

attire incorporated in the gathering, whereas in "The Lottery," the women show

up "wearing faded house dresses and sweaters."  Although Le Guin's environment

seems more festive, all the folks in both stories are coming together for what

seems to be  enjoyable, even celebratory occasions.  However, I believe the

major similarity lies in the fact that  these many pleasant details create a

facade within each story.  The reader is then left ill-prepared when the

shocking, brutally violent, ritualistic traditions are exposed.

      Children are an important focus in both stories.  Jackson makes it easy

for us to imagine their "boisterous play"(para 2), and Le Guin writes "their

high calls rising like swallows' crossing flights over the music and the

singing"(para1).  I see these children being used to symbolize perceived states

of happiness in both stories.  I also believe they are vital necessities in each

story because they are taught and expected to carry traditions into the future.

For instance, in "The Lottery,"  "someone gave little Davy Hutchinson a few

pebbles"(para 76),  he is then able to participate in the stoning of his own

mother, and in "...Omelas," the tradition "is usually explained to children when

they are between eight and twelve"(para 10), and of course, the victim in this

tale is a child.

      The fact that both authors include references to farming may be due to

the association between farming and tradition.

How to Cite this Page

MLA Citation:
"Comparing The Lottery by Shirley Jackson and The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas by Ursula K. Le Guin." 13 Mar 2018

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Le Guin         Omelas         Ursula         Shirley Jackson         Ones         Lottery         Connotations        

  I know many people who believe

that farming is a way of life that is handed down from generation to generation,

it is very much a tradition to them. The men in "The Lottery" are "speaking of

planting and rain, tractors and taxes"(para 3) and in "...Omelas," the farmer's

market is described as nothing less than "magnificent"(para 3).  The most

obvious reason for these references is that the rituals performed in both

stories are suppose to have an effect on harvest.  "Lottery in June, corn be

heavy soon"(para 32) in "The Lottery" used to be a saying heard in their

community.  And in "...Omelas," "the abundance of their harvest"(para 9), along

with many other things,  supposedly depended upon their performing the certain


      Although the reasons for the traditions are slightly different in each

story, the rituals  themselves are very much alike.  Both are shocking and both

involve the sacrifice of a human being.  Because the sacrifice in "The Lottery"

is chosen strictly by chance, age is not a determinant, whereas in "...Omelas"

the sacrifice is always a child.  However, regardless of this difference, when

the time comes, victims in each of these tales begins  pleading  for release

from their inevitable doom. The child in "...Omelas" says "Please let me out.  I

will be good!"(para 8), while in "The Lottery," Tessie screams, "It isn't fair,

it isn't right"(para 79).  In Le Guin's story, death comes through slow, twisted

torture.  The naked child sacrifice is locked in a dark cellar room, fed only a

small portion of cornmeal and grease once a day, and is allowed no desirable

human contact or communication.  In "The Lottery" the sacrifice is simply stoned

to death by the remaining community, including friends and family, although this

isn't quite as sickening as the method in the other story,  it is horrible and

wicked nonetheless.

      Although it is stated in "...Omelas" that "they all understand that

their happiness, the beauty of their city, the tenderness of their friendships,

the health of their children, the wisdom of their scholars, the skill of their

makers, even the abundance of their harvest and the kindly weather of their

skies, depend wholly on this child's abominable misery,"(para 9) there is

evidence that not all agree with it.  In fact, after young people see the victim

in it's abhorrent condition, they are described as "shocked  and sickened at the

sight"(para 10), and "often the young people go home in tears, or in a tearless

rage"(para 12).   In "The Lottery," many parts of the ritual had been altered or

long forgotten by most of the people, this fact in itself, along with a few

other clues tell me that not everyone agrees with it either.  One of the

characters says "seems like there's no time at all between lotteries

anymore"(para 22), which leads me to believe that she wishes they weren't

performed as often, or at all, and another states that she hopes it's not one of

her friends that is chosen(para 66).

      Based in part on the afore mentioned statements, I have interpreted the

themes in each story to be identical to one another.  Not only do I believe that

many disagree with the practice of both rituals, I also think that the

individual feels helpless in putting a stop to them.  The actions of each

community as a whole seems much greater than the sum of its inhabitants.  For

example, Le Guin writes that some  youngsters and "sometimes also a man or women

much older" will walk alone "straight out of the city of Omelas, through the

beautiful gates"(para 14).  Instead of standing up and saying they don't believe

the ritual is right, they do what is easier for them, they just leave.  In "The

Lottery," Mrs.  Adams mentions to  Old Man Warner "that over in the north

village they're talking of giving up the lottery"(para 31) and that "Some places

have already quit the lotteries"(para 33), and he replies as a defender of the

ritual by referring to the quitters as a "Pack of crazy fools" and says "There's

always been a lottery"(para 32).  Although she doesn't say it in so many words,

I find it obvious that she feels that the ritual is outmoded and should be put

to an end. This in combination with the fact that the majority of townspeople

don't even remember the reasons behind the ritual, has led me to the conclusion

that they only continue the process  for "tradition's sake." Parallel in these

two stories is the fact that certain individuals may feel like it, but no one is

able to stand up against the action of their community.

       It just goes to show that humans are creatures of habit and that

sometimes we continue to participate in (or tolerate) harmful practices, simply

because as individuals we feel powerless and unable to stand up against

societies in which the behaviors have always been accepted.

Sources Cited and Consulted

Le Guin, Ursula K. The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas. St. Louis: St. Louis Community College Meramec, 1999. Feb. 1999.

Jackson, S.  The Lottery.  (Internet) 1-8.

Mukamel, E.  The Irrepressible Individual In The Works Of Shirley Jackson., May 13, 2000, 1-7. 

"Ursula K. LeGuin." 1998. 1998

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Therefore, as can be seen at the end of this story, where this woman goes completely insane and made John faint when he went into the room and saw what she had done. In both stories, there were many similarities in literary device such as themes. In “The Lottery”, Jackson indirectly mentions that women are lower class compared to men in the village. This could be seen in leadership roles where men were given the opportunity to choose the slip of the paper. Furthermore, Jackson implied in her short story that the winner of this event possessed qualities where the villagers thought it is less desirable and it is more like a social scapegoat. For example, Mrs. Summers was one of the victims who did not have good work ethic. The villagers felt sorry for Mr. Summers because he h no other family member. The women in this story pretty much had low work ethic as described by the author. Here, the same theme subordination of women in terms of marriage applies in “The Yellow Wallpaper”. John, husband of the narrator is the head of household and he decides what is going to be done. This made the narrator to have no say in even her smallest details of her life, and she retreats into her obsessive fantasy, the only place she can retain some exercise and control the power of her mind. (2008). There was difference in themes as well in these two stories such as the importance of self


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