Modern Short Story Essay Early 20th Century authors often wrote about the strange things and discrepancies found in society and used irony to criticize them. Katherine Mansfield’s “A Cup of….
Short Story and Selfishness William Jung
Who can promise that they have never been selfish throughout their life? Who can say out loud that they never did something that had a bad influence on others, only because of personal benefit? The answer is in the short story “The Lottery”, which was written by Shirley Jackson in 1948.
The story takes place in a small town where everyone has to join the lottery, and the winner will be sacrificed for heavy crops for the town. During the lottery, everyone including Tessie Hutchinson, who wins the lottery, expresses their selfishness both consciously and unconsciously.
Shirley Jackson is making a point about selfishness. To be specific, she notes that selfishness is born within mankind and lives deep inside, behind their mask of duplicity. In the story, Tessie Hutchinson symbolizes selfishness, she is a happy kind married woman before the lottery, but by the time she finds out that she actually ‘wins’ the lottery, which means she has to sacrifices for the town, it’s when her selfishness starts to appears.
When Hutchinson family is choose to have the second draw, Tessie strongly argues that “You didn’t give him time enough to take any paper he wanted, I saw you, it wasn’t fair! ” (P. 6) even though she also pinches his husband Bill to draw the paper.
She only worries about her family were chosen. Moreover, she only cares about herself, during the second draw, she strongly agrees about her daughters to join the lottery, which will make more chances for her to survive. Her selfishness is unavoidable even though she is a mother of a family, because selfishness is deep inside her.
Beside Tessie Hutchinson who is an adult, some innocent, pure little children also contain absolute selfishness, just like Tessie’s children Bill, Jr. and Nancy. They join the second lottery with Hutchinson family although they are too young, but when they find out that they are not the one who ‘wins’ the lottery, they both “beamed and Laughed, turning around to the crowd and holding their slips of paper above their heads. ” (P. 8) They delight about they didn’t get selected to sacrifice. They are happy because the one who will die are not them, but their mother.
Children are not able to endure their impressions, which make them express their true emotions, in this case selfishness throughout their innocent faces unconsciously, because they are simply happy, they didn’t learn anything from others, it was just their instinct reactions that appear because of the selfishness, which born within themselves.
Everyone in the village also has the exact same feelings as Bill, Jr. and Nancy, but they don’t express their feeling by reactions to others because they have more mature masks which are their faces of conscience.
Before the lottery starts, everyone acts like they are nice innocent person. They talk to each other like friends, just like they really care about each other. However, when Tessie says the lottery is unfair, and should do the lottery again, the selfishness within people is no more covering by the masks of “kindness”.
As they face another bad chance to die, their emotions come out right away consciously, they say “be a good sport, Tessie. ” or “All of us took the same chance. ” (P.6) to get away from the danger. Including Bill Hutchinson who is Tessie’s husband, he “went over to his wife and forced the slip of paper out of her hand. ” (P. 8) to make sure she is the one who will die, and shows the slip of paper with black dot to everyone. The masks of ‘conscience’ , ‘kindness’ or even ‘love’ will lose their power in front of the selfishness when people are in an extreme situation. The masks cannot cover the true natural sense of mankind. Selfishness is something that no one can reject it.
It’s something that everyone owns, but owns without any authority to control it. It’s something that is impossible to hide behind the masks of duplicity forever. It’s the basic and strongest devil that born within everyone.
But it is possible to change the way of being selfish, by respecting others selfishness, by knowing that other people only care about themselves just like usual, and by finally realize that the easiest way to protect or gain benefit to yourself is by helping others, because devotion will always come back like a boomerang.