Scapegoat, what a strange term. Two words that have no connection being used in the same word. The word escape, which means to flea from danger, and the word goat, which is a common farm animal. How could these go together A scapegoat is someone who is blamed for the mistakes or crimes of another.
The term scapegoat may have some similarity to the ancient Greek term trag os ode, which literally means goat song. This connection comes about in the symbolic meaning of the word goat. In biblical times, goats were sacrificed to God. Goats now have been marked with the remembrance of sacrificing. Perhaps, the ancient Greeks were actually meaning, sacrifice song, or song of sacrifice. This brings about what the story The Lottery, by Shirley Jackson, is about.
Several examples of scapegoating were used in this short story, but the story revolves around one major scapegoat. The first example is when Mrs. Hutchinson is late for the beginning of the lottery. Everyone in the town knows that the date is June 27 th. For many years, on this date, the villagers would gather together in the central square for the annual lottery.
There would always be much excitement and interest as the rituals of the event proceeded. The familiar discussion of current and everyday happenings in village life are intermingled with commentary on the traditional and modern ways of holding the lottery, as well as observation of the particularities of this year's proceedings. However, on this famous date, June 27 th, somehow Mrs. Hutchinson forgets about the lottery and continues to wash dishes. Upon her arrival to the Town Square, she says that her husband has not reminded her, giving him all of the blame for her being late. I find it very suspicious that for an unforgettable event, such as the lottery that is only held once a year, that someone would forget about it.
Many people would have been talking about his event weeks before it happened I am sure that Mrs. Hutchinson did not forget, she just chooses to show up late because she was dreads the thought of coming. Next, after the drawings of the slips of paper have been pulled and Mr. Hutchinson has the winning slip, Mrs. Hutchinson starts screaming. She protests that Mr.
Summers rushed him. Mr. Summers did not give him enough time to choose as the others did. She keeps insisting that, it wasn t fair, once again casting all the blame off one someone else, in this case innocent Mr. Summers. From an early age, children observe their parents casting their problems off on someone else.
They hear this, and they become accustomed to blaming their troubles on others as well. When a child gets into trouble, how is it that it s never the child s fault, or so they say But, it seems to always be the child next in line that is at fault. For example, if a student returns home with a low mark from school, it is never the student s fault, but somehow the teacher is at fault, the teacher is the one to blame. This continues forth into the adolescent age. A teenage son or daughter returns home with news that they have wrecked. However, it was the other driver s fault.
Everyone feels that when they are in trouble they need a way out, a back door to get around the problem. The major point at which this story is centered is the use of sacrifice as a scapegoat. Mrs. Hutchinson, in the story, serves as the scapegoat for everyone in the small town. Town tradition is to sacrifice a human in hope for productive weather, crops, and good health. Even though several of the younger families believe that the tradition should cease, the elders, who had more authority, believe that the lottery should continue.
The ancient Aztecs also believed in this ritual of having a human sacrifice to insure good crops. Even though they may have not been quite as technical as this town, they still had the same idea. At the end of the story, they stone Mrs. Hutchinson to death.
In doing this, they believe that they are eliminating all of their sins for the previous year, just like the weekly communion of a Christian Church is used as a time of personal forgiveness from Jesus, who was sacrificed for all the sins of human kind. This short story initially deceives, then shocks the reader into the realization of the dynamics of scapegoating. Its value lies in this narrative technique which dramatically engages the reader in the textual process such that the reader participates in the act of scapegoating through identification with the townspeople. At the same time as the reader comes to this realization, they are struck by the perils of too early closure on the interpretation of a narrative.