Analysis of King of the Bingo Game and The Lottery
Analysing Short Stories “King of the Bingo Game" and "The Lottery"
The purpose of this paper is to understand the various social and cultural contributions that literature offers through its various allegories and metaphors and can initiate social change as such that they may be the sources of paradigm shifts in society. For this particular research the short stories “King of the Bingo Game” by Ralph Ellison and “The Lottery” by Shirley Jackson. Both the stories are a reflection of various social norms present in the current socio-cultural order and instigate unsettling feelings in the reader. They revolve around the themes of blind faith, the randomness of persecution, fate and determinism. They are valuable pieces of prose that can change perspectives and shed light on motifs of existential importance.
The short story “The King of the Bingo Game” by Ralph Ellison was first published in 1944 in the literary journal Tomorrow and was included in the Norton Anthology of Short Fiction published in 1981. This is Elliot's last published work before the release of his most famous and award-winning novel “Invisible Man”. The story of the King of the Bingo Game revolves around the themes of Alienation and Identity and bleak depiction of racial dynamics in mid-20th century New York and the USA in general. These themes were common with “Invisible Man”. The Story depicts a nameless Blackman who plays a game of Bingo along with other black players, though the outcome of this game is controlled by white overseers.
“The Lottery'' by Shirley Jackson first appeared in print right after world war 2. Jackson herself admitted that the story intended to explore the capacity of violence in human beings. In the backdrop of the post-world war scenario, human beings were exposed to a new extent of unimaginable violence and misery when faced with the horrors of the nazi concentration cams and other forms of human exploitation that were prevalent in the era (Murphy, 2005). The lottery may have been set as a story that draws heavily from the events and occurrences of world war 2 but the themes and motifs that are being dealt with are timeless and universal. The story is set in a primitive village that is Jackson's way of connecting the reader to a more ancient time. That backdrop makes the weapons of stone all the more prominent in the story.
Critics have placed the story of “The Lottery'' as a work in conversation with puritanism, traditional values of hard work, strict adherence to rules and family structure of a village. These can often be interpreted as images that vaguely connect the story with modern aspects of culture regarding Mob Violence and Mob Mentality and the evils of populism and puritan religious powers (Jackson, 2005). The distribution of power and the people's tendency to put blind faith in this structure results in the striking out of anyone who dares to speak up against any discrepancies that may occur. The stories dwell on the juxtaposition of peace and violence were in the seemingly peaceful and harmonious villagers and are drawn to an act of irrational violence when put in a position to compromise against their social structure and values.
Both the stories deal with an anti-establishment motif wherein the capacity of the powers that be are portrayed as undefeatable and any man attempting to do so is swiftly dealt with by those loyal to those powers. In the case of the Lottery, it is an Anonymous black protagonist who challenges his white overseers by spinning his wheel of fate longer than they had been instructed. The highlights of this story are the role of fate and free will in a man's life, especially in a black man's life set in the backdrop of a white America is the central theme of this narrative (Saunders, 1976). The story points out to its readers how well a man can control his destiny against a system that is completely unfair.
Isolation is another motif that has been enunciated in this prose. Here the protagonist is a black man in a predominantly white America experiences extreme isolation in a strange city amongst completely unfamiliar faces (Guereschi, 1976). This isolation leads him to understand the secret for the game but he is unable to share this revelation with anyone else who further intensifies his solitude. Thus he is operating from both the position of power and powerlessness for he is only a and will be completely ineffective going against the larger system that is at play.
The story of “the Lottery '' is another take on the helplessness of individuals against a pre-established structure which though inefficient cannot be challenged as that is now the majority of the population. The story weaves an intricate plot with the subtle juxtaposition of images including the young children collecting stones which sound like the premonition for war in a quaint and peaceful village morning (Hague, 2005). The story deals with the theme of blindly following tradition and how it is accepted by the masses to a point where they lose all sense of right and wrong and Lomita gruesome murder just to uphold the structure and the outdated way of life.
Both stories convey motifs to similar readers. They include the idea of structure and authority and the powerlessness of individuals who strive to fight against authority. The common themes include the collective unconscious of the crown and how mob mentality works. The dissociation of morality in a mob and the brutal act of murder are reflections on societies tendency to crucify outliers based on popular opinion and not providing them with a chance to logically explain their point of views (Ellison, 1944). The other story deals with a man's desperation, the illusion of control and power and the ultimate triumphs of the powers that be convey the message that the society is inherently unfair in which the powerful will always subdue the weak and even if they find their opportunities in the world, the powers that be will always use their influence to subdue and crucify that individual. Both the stories end with tragic consequences leaving readers with an infallible longing for justice that never seems to arrive.