What Does Death Play for in the Lottery

Title: What Does Death Play for in ‘The Lottery’?


Shirley Jackson’s short story, ‘The Lottery’, is a thought-provoking tale that delves into the darker aspects of human nature and society. One of the central figures in this chilling narrative is the character known as Death. While Death’s role may seem ambiguous at first, a closer examination reveals its significance in the story’s themes of tradition, conformity, and the inherent evil that can lurk within a community. In this article, we will explore the role of Death in ‘The Lottery’ and its deeper implications.

The Role of Death in ‘The Lottery’

1. Who is Death in ‘The Lottery’?
Death is not portrayed as a literal person or entity in the story. Instead, it is a metaphorical representation of the villagers’ blind adherence to tradition and their willingness to commit an act of violence against one of their own.

2. How does Death manifest in the story?
Death manifests in the form of the lottery itself, which the villagers participate in each year. By blindly following this tradition, the villagers indirectly embrace the concept of death, as it is the ultimate consequence for the chosen person.

3. What is Death’s significance in ‘The Lottery’?
Death serves as a symbol of the destructive power of tradition and the potential for evil within a seemingly normal community. It highlights the dangers of blindly following customs without questioning their morality or purpose.

4. How does the presence of Death affect the atmosphere of the story?
The presence of Death creates an atmosphere of tension and unease. From the very beginning, the reader senses that something ominous is about to happen, amplifying the shock factor when the true nature of the lottery is revealed.

5. Is Death inevitable in ‘The Lottery’?
In the context of the story, Death is indeed inevitable. The lottery selects a sacrificial victim each year, and the community willingly sacrifices one of their own. This cycle of violence perpetuates the traditions and ensures the continuation of the lottery.

6. Does Death symbolize anything else in the story?
In addition to symbolizing the destructive power of tradition, Death can also be seen as a representation of the villagers’ collective guilt and complicity. By participating in the lottery, they become complicit in the act of taking a life.

7. What is the purpose of Death’s presence in the narrative?
The purpose of Death in ‘The Lottery’ is to challenge the reader’s perception of what is considered normal and acceptable behavior within a community. It forces us to question the morality of blindly following customs that may be inherently harmful.

8. How does Death impact the theme of conformity in the story?
Death underscores the theme of conformity by highlighting the villagers’ willingness to sacrifice an innocent person simply because it is tradition. It showcases the dangers of conformity, as it can lead to the perpetuation of harmful practices.

9. What does Death teach us about the nature of human beings?
Death in ‘The Lottery’ serves as a reminder that even seemingly ordinary people are capable of committing heinous acts when influenced by tradition and societal pressure. It warns against blindly following customs without considering their implications.


In ‘The Lottery’, Death plays a significant role in highlighting the destructive power of tradition, the dangers of conformity, and the inherent evil that can reside within a community. Through the metaphorical representation of Death, Shirley Jackson challenges readers to critically examine societal norms and the potential consequences of blindly adhering to them. This thought-provoking story continues to resonate with audiences, reminding us of the importance of questioning and challenging inherited customs for the betterment of society.

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