Everyone has at least one ancient tradition, but some are not all about family time and happiness. Some are about weeding out the bad seeds, sometimes imprisoning them for life, sometimes murdering the offenders. It’s a sin to kill a mockingbird, but is it really a sin to kill one of your neighbors? It may seem brutal, but as shown in both “The Lottery” and To Kill a Mockingbird, it isn’t that awful if you’re only following an old ritual.
However, some practices require people to draw the line of what traditions are oppressive but not necessarily vicious, and which are just plain cruel. An example is: decorating the Christmas tree and making all your neighbors see it. This may offend them because they could perhaps not celebrate the same holiday; but the tradition is not of malicious intent. However, it’s not the same as, say, ridiculing and harrassing someone because they are a different religion than you are. However, in the chosen pieces, the customs are on the cruel side of the divide.
A custom’s brutality can be showcased in different ways, and in both of these pieces, multiple ways are drawn upon to demonstrate the cruel traditions. Though Shirley Jackson and Harper Lee both portray the brutality of tradition, Jackson utilizes situational irony to compare the Lottery to the slavery in the land of the free; and Lee employs irony in judicial court in order to show similarities to the Scottsboro trial of 1931.Shirley Jackson uses situational irony in “The Lottery” in order to convey the brutality of tradition in her story. “The morning of June 27th was clear and sunny, with the fresh warmth of a full-summer day; the flowers were blossoming profusely and the grass was richly green.
” (Jackson). The idyllic situation described in the first paragraph makes the village seem like a beautiful and kind place, a great day to be alive. But in the end, when a character is beaten to death by her friends and family, the situation is anything but sweet and pretty. This is situational irony because the author sets the stage as a beautiful scenic village with peaceful people taking place in a lottery. ‘”It isn’t fair, it isn’t right,” Mrs. Hutchinson screamed, and then they were upon her’ (Jackson). Quite a sharp contrast from the start, this tale ends with murder and brutality; a woman being stoned to death by her village. This links to the theme, the brutality of tradition, because the lottery is an old tradition from long ago.
In addition to being an ancient custom, it is cruel and causes innocent people to die, with a random chance of survival. However, the practice is something the villages are accustomed to doing, so they follow it without realizing the brutal outcome of citizens being killed by their friends and family members. The irony ties into this because it describes the story as a peaceful village, but it actually is a puppet of this old, cruel tradition.While Harper Lee also has the brutality of tradition as her theme, she uses the irony in Maycomb county’s jury system to exhibit it. “I waited and waited to see you all come down the sidewalk, and as I waited I thought, Atticus Finch won’t win, he can’t win, but he’s the only man in these parts who can keep a jury out so long in a case like that.
” (Lee 289). Miss Maudie is saying that although the jury already knows they are going to condemn Tom Robinson, Atticus is keeping them in the room to deliberate, trying to persuade them to break the norm. This is where the brutal irony comes in. The people of Maycomb county are so used to thinking black people are lesser than them, and so they discriminate against them without a single thought. Atticus tried to get the jury to break out of their hard and fast decision that they made only thinking about the tradition of black people not being as important as white citizens. Why is this ironic? Juries usually take a long time to decide their verdict. If Atticus had to keep them in the room for a long time, then it shows how the citizens serving jury time were ready as soon as Tom Robinson walked in. Just because he was a different race, the trial was a hopeless battle for him and Atticus, because the tradition of thinking less of the other races prevailed and ended up cruelly imprisoning and killing an innocent man.
Shirley Jackson and Harper Lee both use irony to convey the historical significance of their writing; Lee uses irony in the justice system to convey similarities to the Scottsboro trial, and Jackson uses hers to show situational irony about slaves in the ‘land of the free’. “In order to avoid being charged with consorting with blacks, the women accused the men of rape. ” (Levy).
This piece about the Scottsboro trial in Time magazine talks about how white women on a train in Scottsboro, Alabama flirted with black men; and the black men were sentenced to death. This shows similarities to both stories; Harper Lee’s because a black man was innocent and a white woman was scared to admit she had contact with him to avoid being punished, and thus because of the racial inequality of America at the time, the blacks were seen at fault. In Shirley Jackson’s, this comparison alludes to how slaves were kept in America, the “land of the free”, and shows how people discriminated against others but thought it was all right because they were a different race. If the white women were scared of being arrested for having contact with black boys, then this shows the brutal inequality in our “free and accepting nation”. Although both traditions in the stories are cruel, the historical comparisons of The Lottery to slavery in America; and To Kill a Mockingbird to the Scottsboro incident are both shown through different aspects of irony. The brutality of traditions applies to our real world, not just the fictional stories.
Almost everyday on our planet, people die because of other citizens of our globe, because of something their ancestors before them decided to do. Traditions don’t just apply to holiday cookies and Easter egg hunts. They can be far more wicked than that, and can affect lots of people just because of their race or their random luck in a contest. Some will end up killing innocent people, just because that was what was done in the past.