Theme and Symbols Essay

In the short story “The Lottery” by Shirley Jackson there are many themes. However, the main theme of the short story is following a tradition blindly can be deadly. Tradition in societies and culture allows for important lessons and skills to be passed on from generation to generation. However, following others without questioning what is going on or the reason why your doing it in the first place, can lead to reckless and impulsive behavior. Although the tradition in the small village remained the same the rituals gradually changed .

For example the lottery determines each year whether you live or die. This indicates how dangerous tradition can be when people blindly follow it. Another example is the children running around gathering stones for this event and to top it off they are forced to participate in this event as well. After being subjected to this for so long, the children become used to it and participates willingly. Everyone becomes custom to this life without asking questions ,this becomes a ritual of murder and a major part of their lives.

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After awhile the wood chips changed to paper, because it allowed more pieces of paper/families names to go into the box. That symbolized the growth of the village. The black box symbolizes not only tradition, but the loyalty the villagers has for its tradition. The black box also symbolizes death, history, rituals and judgment. The lottery only carries on because it has been in the village for so long, since that’s all the people know of. The lottery itself symbolizes how things are passed down through generations without being questioned no matter how off the wall, dangerous or harsh it may be.

In the short story “The Things They Carried” by Tim Obrien there are many themes. The theme of physical and emotional loads stood out the most to me. Not only were they carrying physical loads on the backs, but emotional loads too. Most of the men there were dealing with the fact of whether they would ever return home or whether they would live to see another day. Even after the war ended the men who survived carried around with physical/emotional loads. Whether it was a prosthetic arm or nightmares of the war it made a big impact on their lives.

This made some of the men turn to drugs or alcohol to cope with the emotional pain/load they were dealing with. People deal with different situations in their own little ways. For example Henry carried around with his girlfriends pantyhose which symbolized that he was yearning for affection and comfort. While Jimmy carried around with compasses and map because he was responsible for the team. Even though they all carried around with different objects, this symbolizes that they did this for self protection.

No matter what it was whether it was a pantyhose, drugs, alcohol, pictures or a gun it helped motivate them to want to live. The themes in these two short stories has a significance. Tradition in societies and culture allows for important lessons and skills to be passed on from generation to generation. Whereas emotional loads is something people hold on to, to survive in life. No matter what the situation is in life tradition and loads play a major role in someone’s life.