In "The Lottery," Shirley Jackson uses symbolism to make us aware of the pointless nature of humanity regarding tradition and violence. The story starts off on a beautiful summer day in a small town. The author describes the day as very excited but strikes a contrast between the atmosphere of the town and the atmosphere of the people gathered in the square. The atmosphere is serious, where the children are "gathered around quietly." (335) The black box is the central theme or idea in the story. It symbolizes at first some type of mystery, but as we read the ending we realize that it is synonymous with death. Someone's fate lies in an dull object, the black box. We do not always enjoy change, even if it might prove beneficial to us. The box is symbolic of our dislike of change; it is old and splintered (337) showing that we cling to what is familiar rather than change and it also symbolizes the traditions of the community. No one in the little town questions the origin of the black box, but accepts it as part of their lives.
The lottery itself is symbolic of the absurdity of the human consciousness between compassion on one hand and the thirst for violence and cruelty on the other. An example of this is when the children are enjoying a break from school, (335) playing and being children, and suddenly they are being joined by rational adults in stoning a mother to death. It appears that tradition has blinded these people in an irrational way, making them unable to think of a reason why this possibly should not be happening.
When forced with the possibility of death, human nature in all its complexity, comes down to one instinctive urge, that of survival. When Tessie was in no danger she was gossiping with the other ladies and even encouraged her husband to go and pick a piece of paper. (338) When Tessie wins the lottery; she pleads for another chance and screams for mercy. She demands that her daughters take their chances as well, which is indicative of regression toward our basic instinct of survival.