In the movie entitled The Day the Earth Stood Still the protagonist said that people change when faced with a life and death situation. There is truth to this statement because human beings will do everything to survive. In the face of danger the normal reaction is to flee or fight the source of threat.
Everything must be done for the sake of safety and security. The change in demeanor and even change in character is evident in many cases. One good example of a character that manifested change in the face of danger is the character that can be found in Shirley Jackson’s The Lottery.
The person who manifested change in demeanor and character was Mrs. Hutchinson. In the early part of the story, Mrs. Hutchinson was seen as friendly and carefree. She was a person that was not easily bothered by the things that were going on around her. In fact, she forgot about the lottery.
It was the most important event in the calendar because it meant the death of a member of the community. Furthermore, there is a degree of randomness in the process and therefore anyone can lose his or her life that day. But Mrs. Hutchinson completely forgot about the event, testifying to her carefree nature.
Aside from her carefree ways, Mrs. Hutchinson also projected friendliness. She was friendly to every person that she met along the way as she inched closer to her husband and to the platform where the proceedings were conducted. She knew everyone on a first-name basis and she was kind with her words. The people who knew her reciprocated the same feeling of respect and admiration. But when her name was chosen as the year’s victim and sacrifice, her character changed drastically.
When the arbiter called the name of Mrs. Hutchinson, the woman suddenly became combative. Her anger manifested through her words and she said things contrary to her character and standing in the community. She barked at the presiding officer Mr. Summers and said that he was not fair to her and her family. She said that Mr. Summers did not allow her son to choose the paper that he wanted to draw out from the lottery. In effect, she accused Mr. Summer of fraud.
It was important for the author to develop the character of Mrs. Hutchinson and gave her that particular identity. Her character was infused with kindness and generosity. These are traits that enabled Hutchinson’s character to stand out of the crowd. It contrasted her from the anxiety-ridden members of the community. More importantly it created an atmosphere of irony because she was the only person who did not believe that she would be sacrificed in the community’s religious altar.
The way she was characterized was important and critical because it amplified the impact of her reaction. Consider the effect of her statement when she accused Mr. Summers of breaking the rules. It can be argued that in normal conditions Mrs. Hutchinson will not even dare to look Mr. Summers in the eye.
The way she was characterized enabled the readers to believe that she was not capable of confronting Mr. Summers. Prior to the selection, Mrs. Hutchinson was seen as friendly and gentle. But after she was chosen her demeanor changed drastically and she became aggressive and combative.
The main explanation for the change was her desire to live. She knew that a piece of paper with a blackened center could spell the difference between life and death.
When Mrs. Hutchinson realized that there was no way out, she behaved like a cornered animal. She forgot about rules of etiquette and how to behave in a social setting. In a life and death situation, nothing else matters except safety and security. Mrs. Hutchinson need not worry about shame and social backlash because there was only one thing in her mind and that is to survive the ordeal.
The severity of the situation was made more evident because of the person in the center of the lottery and that was none other than Mr. Summers. He was highly respected in the community. He can be compared to the local judge of this city. The judge is a man of impeccable character. Therefore, the community gives him the power to make decisions even on matters that involve life and death. The same thing can be said by Mr. Summers’ position in the story.
It was contended earlier that people change when faced with a life and death situation. The explanation is easy to understand because human beings will do everything to survive. One of the best examples of this phenomenon is the character of Mrs. Hutchinson in the story entitled The Lottery.
Mrs. Hutchinson was projected with character traits that are related to kindness and generosity. But these were replaced with anger and slander when she desperately looked for a way out of her predicament. The author developed this particular character and infused her with these particular traits to highlight the tension and danger of the events that surrounded the lottery.
Arp, Thomas and Greg Johnson. Perrine’s Literature: Structure, Sound and Sense.
Boston, MA: Thomson Wadsworth, 2006. Print.