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How Characters are Harmed and Helped in The Lottery and The Shawl

In literature there are many stories and texts that provide vivid examples of how characters are helped or harmed in one way or another and how the series of events develop the plot to eventually lead the characters to be helped or harmed to get to how they are planned to end. Of course, the type of the story, tragic or comedy, determines how the character would be dealt with: with joy or tragedy; with assistance or trouble. The two stories “The Lottery” by Sherley Jackson and “The Shawl” by Cynthia Ozick that have been selected present two cases where a character is being helped or harmed.

In the story “The Lottery” Sherley Jackson presents the ritual of a small town. As we proceed with the story, we get an idea of a well enjoyed and a well appreciated tradition that gathers the interest of the entire population of the town. We see a character named Tessie Hutchinson being involved immensely from the beginning. But the story does not get her to a remarkable end, but rather a depressing one. As we approach the end of the story we see how the clever Sherley Jackson planned to portray a tale of an event called the Lottery in a way pleasant way and lead the events to automatically allow the readers to understand how far cruel the Lottery day was. It was not an event that gave out joy and that monetary or fringe benefits were not the attractions of the event.

It was fear that was the attraction. It was fear that attracted Tessie Hutchinson to rush towards the crowd to attend the Lottery. The Lottery decided who was to be killed with stones to provide for a sacrifice for the good the town. And Tessie Hutchinson falls victim of that and despite of her many pleas to rescue her life, she is put to death just because her name got drawn in the Lottery. No body could help her as the custom was a long lasting and long standing one in the town and the mayor and the prominent people of the town stood firm on their beliefs regarding it. To them it was part of their social system but to us, it appeared a terrible harm to the life of Tessie Hutchinson.

In the Story “The Shawl” by Cynthia Ozick, we see two contrasting images of characters being helped and harmed. On one hand there is Stella, who since the beginning of their journey to the end, longs for warmth and care, and being charged of an older age, sees a young infant named Magda being cared for the most by Rosa. Rosa fears the survival of Magda and gives all the attention to her bearing that in mind. But for Stella, this results in endless jealousy and longing. Stella one day ends up snatching the shawl that covered Magda tired out of feeling cold. When this helps Stella, on the other hand, Magda ends up facing death. She walks right into the death ground where Rosa stands and watches her crawl, being helpless to go after her and save her. The shawl thus, helps one girl and harms the other.

The stories present not two but three vivid examples of situations where characters are being harmed or helped. Where Sherley develops a clever and yet simple plot of Lottery letting an innocent lady die for a traditional ritual of a society, Cynthia, tries to fill the longing of a young girl by depriving an innocent infant of the right to live freely and in comfort. Both stories, being nonetheless, exemplary lessons to be learned how characters can be given what they want and what they do not expect and how events shape up the unexpected consequences.