What Does the Stool in the Lottery Symbolize? Decoding the Symbolism

The stool in “The Lottery” by Shirley Jackson is one of the most intriguing symbols in the story. It represents the uncomfortable truth about tradition and how it can often lead to the normalization of evil behavior. Throughout the story, the stool is seen as a mundane object that is used to hold up the black box that contains the lottery slips. However, as the lottery proceeds, it becomes clear that the stool has a more significant role in the story than initially assumed.

Many readers may overlook the stool as just another object in the story. However, upon closer inspection, it becomes apparent that the stool is a symbol of the townspeople’s unwillingness to change their ways. Despite the horrific nature of the lottery and its consequences, the stool remains in place. It is a visual reminder that tradition holds a tremendous amount of power, and it can often lead people astray from what is right and just. The stool is a testament to the hold that tradition can have over society and how hard it can be to break away from it.

As you read “The Lottery,” it is impossible not to ask yourself what the stool represents. Not only is it an integral part of the story, but it also carries significant implications for the moral of the tale. The stool serves as a subtle warning about the dangers of blindly adhering to tradition and how it can lead to disastrous results. Through the stool, Jackson delivers a powerful message about the importance of questioning the world around us and remaining vigilant against harmful traditions.

The History of Lotteries in Literature

Lotteries have long been a subject of fascination and intrigue in literature, dating back to ancient times. The concept of a lottery, where tickets are sold and the winner is chosen randomly, has been used as a plot device in many works of fiction throughout history.

One of the earliest written references to a lottery comes from the Bible, in which the apostles cast lots to decide who should replace Judas as one of the twelve disciples. Lotteries were also used by the ancient Greeks and Romans as a way to allocate property and settle disputes.

However, it was during the Renaissance period that lotteries began to be used in literature for dramatic effect. In William Shakespeare’s play “The Merchant of Venice”, the character Antonio is forced to participate in a lottery to determine his fate. In Miguel de Cervantes’ famous novel “Don Quixote”, a character named Sancho Panza wins the grand prize in a lottery, which leads to a series of comical events.

  • The use of lotteries in literature continued to evolve throughout the centuries, with many authors using them as a symbol for chance, fate, and the unpredictability of life.
  • In Nathaniel Hawthorne’s short story “The Lottery Ticket”, a husband and wife win the lottery and become obsessed with what they will do with the money, only to discover that the ticket was not actually a winner.
  • In Shirley Jackson’s famous short story “The Lottery,” a small town participates in an annual lottery in which the winner is stoned to death as a sacrifice to ensure a good harvest.

Today, lotteries continue to play a role in literature and popular culture. They are often used as a symbol for hope and the pursuit of wealth, as well as the darker side of human nature such as greed and corruption.

Author Work Description
William Shakespeare The Merchant of Venice Antonio participates in a lottery to determine his fate.
Miguel de Cervantes Don Quixote Sancho Panza wins a grand prize in a lottery.
Nathaniel Hawthorne The Lottery Ticket A couple becomes obsessed with a winning lottery ticket.
Shirley Jackson The Lottery A town participates in an annual lottery with deadly consequences.

Overall, lotteries have been a prominent and enduring theme in literature, representing both the hope and despair that can come with chance and fate.

The role of chance and luck in the lottery

When it comes to the lottery, chance and luck play a major role in determining the winner. The very essence of lottery games is based on probability, where players bet on a set of random numbers in the hopes of winning the jackpot. It is evident that the outcome of a lottery game is solely dependent on probability, and there is no way to predict or influence it. This makes the lottery a game of pure chance and luck, where players have no control over the outcome.

  • Probability: The lottery is based on probability, which is the measure of the likelihood of an event occurring. The probability of winning the lottery is extremely low, making it a game of chance and luck.
  • Risk vs Reward: The lottery is a high-risk, high-reward game, as players have the chance to win large sums of money by risking only a small amount.
  • Randomness: The lottery is a game of pure randomness, where the numbers drawn are entirely independent of one another and have no connection to any previous or future draws.

Lottery players often believe in superstitions and lucky charms, hoping that they will help them win. However, the fact remains that winning the lottery is purely a matter of chance and luck, and there is no magical formula or trick that can guarantee a win.

Furthermore, lottery games are known to have a significant impact on individuals and society as a whole. On an individual level, winning the lottery can lead to a change in lifestyle, financial stability, and freedom from debt. On a broader societal level, lottery proceeds are often used to fund various initiatives such as education, healthcare, and environmental programs.

Lottery Probability of Winning
Powerball 1 in 292 million
Mega Millions 1 in 302.6 million
Lotto 6/49 1 in 13.98 million

In conclusion, the lottery is a game of chance and luck, where players have no control over the outcome and rely solely on probability. Winning the lottery can lead to life-changing experiences, but it is important to remember that it is still just a game and that responsible gaming is essential.

Symbolism of other objects in the lottery, such as the black box

The lottery in Shirley Jackson’s short story is full of symbolism, not just in the stool but in other objects as well. The most significant of these is the black box, which is an object of great value but also an object of dread. It is a symbol of tradition and history, of the past and the present all rolled into one. The following section will discuss the symbolism of the black box as well as other objects in the lottery.

Symbolism of the black box

  • The black box is a symbol of tradition and history. It has been used for generations to hold the slips of paper that will determine the fate of the lottery participants. It is almost like an heirloom, passed down from grandparent to parent to child.
  • The black box is a symbol of the past. The story makes it clear that there is a long history to the lottery, and the black box is a part of that history. People are reluctant to change anything about the lottery, including the box itself.
  • The black box is a symbol of the present. Although the box represents tradition and history, it is still a part of the current lottery. It is a reminder of how traditions can be both good and bad.

Symbolism of other objects in the lottery

In addition to the black box and stool, there are other objects in the lottery that have symbolic meaning:

  • The slips of paper – The pieces of paper that people draw from the box have their own symbolic meaning. They represent the people who will potentially be chosen for the lottery, and their fate is determined by the luck of the draw.
  • The stones – The stones that are used to execute the winner of the lottery are another symbol with multiple meanings. They are a representation of the community, coming together to perform a task that no one person wants to do alone. They also represent the acceptance of violence as a part of daily life.


The symbolism of the lottery runs deep, with many objects carrying meaning beyond their immediate purpose. The black box represents tradition, history, and the present. The slips of paper and stones represent fate, community, and violence. All of these objects are a reminder that traditions can be both good and bad and that the acceptance of violence as a part of daily life can be dangerous.

Symbolism Object
Tradition and history Black box
Representation of the people Slips of paper
Community and acceptance of violence Stones

Understanding the symbolism of these objects helps the reader to see the deeper meanings in the story and to recognize the themes that are present. It is a powerful reminder of the dangers of blindly following tradition and of the importance of questioning the status quo.

The impact of social class on lottery participation

The lottery is often seen as a way for people to hit it big and escape their financial woes, but the reality is that participation in lotteries is disproportionately higher among those in lower socioeconomic classes. While there are certainly individuals from all walks of life who buy lottery tickets, research has shown that those with lower incomes and less education are more likely to play.

  • In a study conducted by the National Bureau of Economic Research, it was found that lottery sales are highest in areas with the lowest incomes.
  • Another study conducted by the Florida Legislature’s Office of Program Policy Analysis and Government Accountability found that households with an annual income of less than $25,000 spent an average of $442 per year on lottery tickets, while households earning $50,000 or more only spent an average of $289 per year.
  • The same study also found that those who did not graduate high school spent more on the lottery than those who did, with an average of $469 spent per year compared to $214 spent by college graduates.

It’s important to note that this higher participation in the lottery among those in lower social classes is not due to lack of financial literacy or rational decision making. Rather, it stems from a lack of access to opportunities for upward mobility and a hope that the lottery could provide a way out. In essence, lottery participation among those in lower socioeconomic classes is more of a coping mechanism than a frivolous expense.

Social Class Lottery Participation
Lower Class Higher Participation
Middle Class Moderate Participation
Upper Class Lower Participation

Ultimately, the impact of social class on lottery participation underscores the need for greater opportunities for upward mobility and the importance of addressing systemic inequalities. The lottery may seem like a small expense for those with more resources, but for those in lower socioeconomic classes, it’s often a means of coping with a lack of access to financial stability and opportunities.

The portrayal of small-town life in the lottery

“The Lottery” by Shirley Jackson is a short story that showcases the dark side of small-town life. Jackson portrays the town as a close-knit community, where everyone knows everyone and social norms are strictly adhered to. This subtopic discusses the significance of small-town life in the story and how it contributes to the symbolism of the stool in the lottery.

  • In small towns, everyone is expected to conform to societal norms – no one is allowed to be different. This is evident through the character of Tessie Hutchinson, who is singled out and stoned to death in the lottery simply because she refused to accept the town’s tradition. Her refusal to abide by the community’s traditions highlights the dark side of small-town life and how conformity can have devastating consequences.
  • Small towns are often portrayed as being idyllic and peaceful, but “The Lottery” shatters this illusion. The lottery is a brutal and violent tradition that reveals the ugliness and brutality that often lurks beneath the surface of small-town life.
  • The power structures in small towns are often unequal, with certain individuals or families having more power and influence than others. This is evident in the story, where the Hutchinson family is singled out and stoned to death simply because they were unlucky enough to draw the marked slip of paper from the black box. The fact that the town allowed this to happen highlights the corruption and inequality that can exist in small towns.

In summary, the small-town life portrayed in “The Lottery” exposes the darker side of conformity, the brutal and violent traditions that exist, and the unequal power structures that can exist within such communities. Through the symbolism of the stool in the lottery, Jackson highlights the dangers of blindly conforming to societal norms and the importance of questioning tradition to ensure that it aligns with our values and beliefs.

The controversy surrounding the original publication of “The Lottery”

Shirley Jackson’s short story “The Lottery” was published in The New Yorker in June 1948. While it is now considered a classic of American literature, the story sparked immediate controversy upon its publication. Jackson received hate mail and threats for the story’s shocking and disturbing portrayal of a small town’s annual ritual of stoning one of its own to death. Critics and readers alike were taken aback by the story’s violence and brutality, and some even called for The New Yorker to withdraw the story from publication.

What does the stool in the lottery symbolize?

  • The stool in “The Lottery” is a symbol of authority and power. It is the object on which the black box containing the slips of paper with the villagers’ names is placed, and it is also the seat from which the head of the household draws the winning slip.
  • The stool represents tradition and the acceptance of the lottery ritual among the townspeople. Its presence is a reminder that the lottery has been a part of their community for generations and that it is considered a necessary and important event.
  • The stool also symbolizes the bystander effect and the way in which individuals can be held responsible for collective actions. While each person who draws a slip of paper is responsible for the outcome, the person who sits on the stool and draws the first slip holds a significant amount of power and influence over the fate of the group.

The significance of the number 6

The number 6 plays a significant role in “The Lottery.” There are six members of the Watson family, and the heads of households who draw the slips of paper must also have six people in their household.

This obsession with the number 6 represents the way in which the townspeople are bound by tradition and ritual. They continue to follow the lottery despite its violent and senseless nature because it is a part of their history and has always been done in a particular way.

Examples of the number six in “The Lottery”
Six members of the Watson family attend the lottery.
The box is stored in the post office, which is located on the corner of Main Street and Sixth Street.
The heads of households who draw slips of paper must have six people in their household.

The portrayal of violence in “The Lottery”

Shirley Jackson’s short story “The Lottery” is a critique of the violence ingrained in human nature and society. In this story, tradition and conformity lead to the brutal stoning of an innocent woman. The violence in “The Lottery” is not depicted graphically, but rather through the symbolism and ritualistic actions of the characters.

The significance of the number seven

The use of the number seven is prevalent in “The Lottery” and holds significant symbolism throughout the story. The lottery itself occurs on the seventh day of the seventh month, emphasizing the importance of this number. The seventh month also represents the midpoint of the year, indicating the turning point of the story.

  • Seven is considered a lucky number in many cultures, further highlighting the irony of its use in the lottery.
  • The seven families in the village represent the idea of completeness or wholeness, indicating that the stoning of one member disrupts the balance of the entire community.
  • The black box used to draw the name of the sacrificed member has been in use for over seventy years, again emphasizing the significance of the number seven.

The use of the number seven not only adds to the symbolism and meaning of “The Lottery,” but also helps to foreshadow the violent outcome of the lottery.

The portrayal of violence through tradition

The lottery is a ritualistic tradition in the village, and the use of tradition as a justification for violence is a common theme throughout the story. The use of the black box and the recitation of the rules of the lottery add to the sense of ritual and make the violence seem acceptable to the characters.

The portrayal of violence in “The Lottery” is not through graphic descriptions, but rather through the acceptance and participation of the characters in the tradition of the lottery. The community’s willingness to sacrifice one of its members for the sake of tradition highlights the danger of conformity and the tendency of humans to perpetuate violence through accepted practices.

Symbolism Significance
The black box Represents tradition and the unchanging nature of violence
The stones Represent the burden of violence that the characters carry
The lottery ticket Represents the inevitability of violence in this community

“The Lottery” serves as a warning against the dangers of blind acceptance of tradition and highlights the need for critical thinking and examination of societal norms and practices.

The Role of Tradition and Ritual in the Lottery

One of the most intriguing aspects of Shirley Jackson’s short story “The Lottery” is the role that tradition and ritual play in the story. From the gathering of the town to the drawing of the names, everything seems to be steeped in ancient customs that have been passed down over generations. While the exact origins of the lottery are not clear, it is clear that this is a practice that has been carried out for a long time, and one that the townspeople are intent on maintaining.

The Meaning of the Number 8 in the Lottery

  • The number 8 is significant in many cultures and religious traditions, representing both good and bad luck depending on the context.
  • In Chinese culture, the number 8 is lucky because its pronunciation sounds like the word for “wealth” or “prosperity.”
  • Similarly, in many other cultures, the number 8 is associated with good fortune, abundance, and success.

However, in the context of “The Lottery,” the number 8 takes on a darker meaning. It is the number on the piece of paper that the unlucky winner draws from the black box, determining their fate as the chosen sacrifice. This suggests that the number 8 is not necessarily a lucky number in this particular ritual. Instead, it may represent something ominous or foreboding.

It’s worth noting that the specific significance of the number 8 in “The Lottery” is not explicitly explained in the text. However, the fact that it is the number that determines the fate of the chosen victim implies that it has some sort of symbolic importance in the context of the story.

The Black Box: A Symbol of Tradition and Ritual

The black box used in the drawing of the names is another powerful symbol of the importance of tradition and ritual in the story. The box has been in the town as long as anyone can remember, and the fact that it is black suggests that it holds something dark or mysterious inside.

The townspeople treat the box with a sense of reverence, and the fact that it is brought out every year for the lottery suggests that it is a key component of the ritual. Nobody questions the importance of the box, and everyone is acutely aware of the significance of the lottery and the box itself.

Symbol Meaning
Black box Represents tradition and ritual
Slips of paper Represent the townspeople’s fate and the randomness of the lottery
Black dot on paper Represents the chosen victim, who will be sacrificed to ensure a good harvest

The black box and the lottery ritual both serve as symbols of the townspeople’s adherence to tradition and their willingness to do whatever it takes to maintain their way of life. Even when faced with the prospect of sacrificing one of their own, they are willing to go through with the ritual because it is what they have always done.

In many ways, “The Lottery” is a cautionary tale about the dangers of blindly following tradition and ritual without questioning their origins or purpose. While the exact meaning of the lottery and its associated symbols may be open to interpretation, there is no denying the impact that they have on readers, leaving many to wonder what they might do in the same situation.

The underlying themes of conformity and resistance in “The Lottery”

The short story “The Lottery” written by Shirley Jackson has been widely acknowledged for its underlying themes of conformity and resistance in society. Through the plot, characters, and symbolism, the story highlights the dangers of conforming to popular beliefs without questioning their morality and ethics. At the same time, it also portrays the strength and courage of resistance against such conformity. One of the most significant symbols in the story is the stool.

The Symbolism of the Stool in “The Lottery”

The stool in “The Lottery” represents the number nine, which is symbolic of a cycle’s end. The following quote from the story’s last part explains the significance of the stool:

“With the black box now resting upon the stones, some of the villagers began to stir restlessly, and soon they began to assemble in the square, where they stood together, away from the pile of stones in the corner, and watched as Mr. Summers stirred up the papers inside it. The original paraphernalia for the lottery had been lost long ago, and the black box now resting on the stool had been put into use even before Old Man Warner, the oldest man in town, was born.”

The stool is an integral part of the lottery ritual in the story, as it holds the black box containing the lottery slips. The fact that the box is kept on the stool, which signifies the end of a cycle, foreshadows the eventual end of the cycle of the village’s barbaric tradition. However, this end does not come without resistance, as shown by the character of Tessie Hutchinson.

The Themes of Conformity and Resistance in the Story

  • The Theme of Conformity

The villagers in “The Lottery” blindly follow the tradition of the annual lottery without questioning its morality. The tradition is so ingrained that they continue to hold it despite the loss of the original paraphernalia and the lack of knowledge about its origin. The villagers’ conformity is enforced by a small group of influential people from the village, who ensure that the tradition continues uninterrupted. This unquestioning conformity leads to the senseless death of Tessie Hutchinson at the end of the story, highlighting the dangers of blindly following tradition.

  • The Theme of Resistance

Tessie Hutchinson, the protagonist of the story, is the only villager who openly resists the tradition of the lottery. She challenges the authority of the village leaders and speaks out against the barbaric practice of stoning a person to death. Her resistance is short-lived, and she eventually succumbs to the villagers’ violence. However, Tessie’s courage to question the tradition and stand up for her beliefs gives the reader hope that resistance can bring about a change in even the most seemingly entrenched social norms.


The stool in “The Lottery” symbolizes the end of a cycle, and its significance highlights the underlying themes of conformity and resistance in the story. The story portrays the dangers of blindly following tradition and the importance of questioning societal norms that go against morality and ethics. Through Tessie Hutchinson’s resistance, the reader is shown that even the smallest acts of dissent can bring about meaningful change. “The Lottery” remains a powerful reminder and critique of the dangerous power of conformity and the potential of resistance in society.

The impact of “The Lottery” on the genre of short stories.

Shirley Jackson’s “The Lottery” is undoubtedly one of the most famous short stories in contemporary American literature. Written in 1948, this work of fiction has since then been included in countless anthologies, taught in literary classes, and studied by scholars all over the world. One of the reasons for its fame is its ability to change the genre of the short story in significant ways. Here are some of the ways “The Lottery” has influenced the genre.

The significance of the number 10

  • The number of participants in the lottery is 300, which is ten times the number of families in the village.
  • It takes ten minutes for the villagers to draw the lots and finish the lottery.
  • It takes ten minutes for the villagers to gather the stones.
  • The sacrificial victim is stoned to death with ten times the number of stones necessary to kill a man.

As this list suggests, the number ten is of central importance to the symbolism of “The Lottery.” Jackson’s careful use of this number helps to underscore the underlying themes of the story. For instance, the fact that there are exactly 300 people in the village, which is ten times the number of families, emphasizes the communal nature of the ritual. Similarly, the requirement that the stones be gathered in ten minutes or less underscores the efficiency with which the villagers approach the task, as well as their willingness to work together to accomplish it.

Perhaps the most significant use of the number ten in the story, however, is its association with the act of sacrifice. The fact that the victim is stoned to death with ten times the number of stones necessary to kill a man suggests that the villagers are not simply killing him for justice or vengeance but are instead sacrificing him for some deeper purpose. Many readers have seen this as a commentary on the ways in which societies can become so consumed with tradition and ritual that they lose sight of the humanity of their members.

Symbolism Significance
The black box Represents tradition and the power of groupthink
The lottery Represents society’s willingness to sacrifice individuals for the sake of the group
The stones Represent the violence inherent in the ritual

Overall, the use of the number ten in “The Lottery” helps to reinforce its themes of tradition, community, and sacrifice.

FAQs: What does the stool in the lottery symbolize?

Q: What is the stool in the lottery?
A: The stool is a three-legged piece of furniture that is prominently featured in Shirley Jackson’s short story “The Lottery.”

Q: What does the stool represent in the lottery?
A: The stool represents the traditional and ritualistic nature of the lottery. It is the foundation upon which the black box holding the slips of paper is placed.

Q: Why is the stool in the lottery important?
A: The stool is important because it holds the black box and signifies order and structure to the lottery. Without the stool, the lottery may not be conducted in the same organized manner.

Q: Does the stool play a role in the selection of the lottery winner?
A: No, the stool itself does not play a role in the selection of the lottery winner. The winner is chosen randomly by drawing from slips of paper inside the black box.

Q: What does the stool symbolize in relation to the town’s tradition?
A: The stool represents the longstanding tradition and ritualistic elements of the lottery. It has likely been used for many years and has become an integral part of the town’s customs.

Q: What is the significance of the stool’s three legs in the lottery?
A: The significance of the stool’s three legs is not explicitly stated in the story. However, some readers interpret the three legs as representing the three main aspects of the lottery: tradition, sacrifice, and randomness.

Q: Does the stool in the lottery have any religious connotations?
A: The stool itself does not have any explicitly religious connotations. However, the lottery may have some religious undertones, as it is held annually and involves a sacrifice to ensure a bountiful harvest.

Closing Thoughts:

So, what does the stool in the lottery symbolize? It represents the traditional and ritualistic nature of the lottery, serving as the foundation for the black box. Its three legs may represent different aspects of the lottery, and it is a symbol of the town’s longstanding customs. Thank you for taking the time to read this article. We hope to see you again soon for more thought-provoking content!