In the short story “The Lottery” by Shirley Jackson, Tessie Hutchinson is told to “shut up” multiple times leading up to her ultimately being stoned to death by the townspeople. The first person to tell Tessie to be quiet is Mr. Summers, who is overseeing the lottery proceedings. When Tessie arrives late to the event, she tries to justify her tardiness by saying she forgot what day it was. Mr. Summers cuts her off and tells her to “Be a good sport, Tessie.” This early admonishment foreshadows that others will also urge Tessie to stay quiet as her fate in the lottery is sealed.
The second person who tells Tessie to shut up is Mr. Graves. After Tessie’s family draws the fateful slip of paper with the black spot, condemning Tessie as the “winner” who will be stoned, Tessie immediately protests the fairness of the drawing. She argues that her husband Bill didn’t have enough time to select a piece of paper when his turn came. Mr. Graves dismisses Tessie’s complaint sharply, saying “Be a good sport, Tessie.” By repeating the command used earlier by Mr. Summers, Mr. Graves reinforces that Tessie must be silent about her unfair selection.
Tessie’s own husband Bill Hutchinson is the third person to urge her to stop speaking out. As Tessie continues voicing her displeasure about the drawing being rigged and hurried, Bill tells her firmly “Shut up, Tessie.” This startling order from her spouse reveals how even close family is expected to enforce the lottery’s uncompromising rules. Bill’s harsh words signify that Tessie has crossed a line by questioning the lottery’s legitimacy and must now obediently accept her fate.
Finally, it is the collective will of the townspeople that shouts down Tessie’s desperate protests. As she continues insisting there has been a mistake and she is not the right victim, the crowd tells her repeatedly to “Be a good sport” and “shut up.” They have no tolerance for her speaking out against the horrific violence they are about to inflict upon her. In their minds, she has been chosen and must now be silent. Their mob mentality overpowers any sympathy they might feel, even as Tessie screams about the unfairness of it all. Ultimately, her friends and neighbors stone her to death while she shrieks in pain and horror. Their command to be quiet is the final and most brutal attempt to silence Tessie in the face of mortal terror.
The Repetition of “Be a Good Sport” and “Shut Up”
The repetition of the phrases “Be a good sport” and “Shut up” reinforce how Tessie is coerced by stronger social forces into silence. Both Mr. Summers and Mr. Graves use the command “Be a good sport,” which projects a sinister faux-politeness. Their authority as leaders of the lottery mean that this isn’t just a friendly suggestion but an order to stop talking and accept her fate. When even this phrase can’t stop Tessie’s protests, others switch to the more openly hostile “Shut up.” Each time someone insists she be quiet, Tessie loses a bit more agency over her ability to speak. Ultimately, her life depends on keeping silent, even as she disagrees with what’s happening. The repetition of these phrases snuffs out her power to object.
While Tessie does eventually go silent after the first stones strike her, her repeated objections reveal her courageous spirit. Jackson makes clear that Tessie feels the lottery is unjust, both when her family is chosen and when she alone is selected as the sacrifice. Tessie vocalizes her outrage to the very end, even as those around her crush her ability to speak. Her calls for fairness and accusations of wrongdoing disrupt the myth that the lottery is an acceptable, unquestioned tradition. While the mob mentality overpowers Tessie, her refusal to go quietly suggests Jackson’s own condemnation of sanctioned violence and conformity without critical thought.
Through the commands to be quiet directed at Tessie in “The Lottery,” Jackson dramatizes how groupthink and unethical traditions can override moral objections raised by individuals. Tessie functions as a disturbing symbol of what happens when someone questions the prevailing social order. Her neighbors’ insistence that she stay silent demonstrates their discomfort with confrontation and change. Sadly, their silence following Tessie’s death reveals their complicity in upholding violent rituals without purpose. By speaking out even when threatened, Tessie represents resistance against blind allegiance to customs that normalize brutality.
Shirley Jackson’s 1948 short story “The Lottery” depicts a fictional small town in contemporary America that holds an annual lottery to determine which resident will be stoned to death, in order to ensure a good harvest. The story initially presents the lottery as an accepted tradition, but gradually reveals the cruelty and irrationality of the practice as the narrative focuses on Tessie Hutchinson, the woman selected for death.
Multiple times before Tessie is killed, others in the village tell her to “shut up” in response to her protests about the lottery’s unfairness. The frequent commands to be silent directed at Tessie by community leaders and her own husband signal both the social pressure to conform and Tessie’s laudable defiance against an unjust practice. Examining who tells Tessie to be quiet and why provides deeper insight into the themes of mob mentality, ritualized violence and resistance to inhumane traditions in “The Lottery.”
Mr. Summers is a central authority figure in the village, as he oversees the administration of the lottery each year. When Tessie arrives late, she offers excuses about why she nearly missed the event. Mr. Summers cuts off her rambling explanation sternly, telling her: “Be a good sport, Tessie.” This early command sets the expectation that questioning or resisting the lottery is unacceptable. As the one officially administering the proceedings, Mr. Summers acts bothered by even a minor delay or complaint. His directive foreshadows that any deviance from the ritual, as Tessie later attempts, will be swiftly suppressed.
Mr. Summers’ Aunt Jemima Brand Pancake Flour Sack Costume
It is significant that Mr. Summers makes his authoritative pronouncement while wearing “one of the flour sack shirts and trousers that had been taken by Mr. Graves from the Old Man Warner’s ramshackle automobile” earlier in the story. The flour sacks are from “Aunt Jemima’s Pancake Flour,” a real-world brand that embodied a racist mammy stereotype. Mr. Summers decking himself in these offensive garments demonstrates his lack of sensitivity regarding important social issues like racism. His flippant use of the controversial costume implies he does not question traditions or analyze them for fairness, just as he never stops to consider the ethics of the murderous lottery.
Mr. Summers’ Name
In addition, Mr. Summers’ name itself associates him with the sunny, cheerful obliviousness of summer. The name matches his initially jovial attitude as he makes jokes while organizing the lottery. Just as summer represents a time of fun and warmth, Mr. Summers seems pleasantly removed from the violence and solemnity of the event’s true purpose. Yet his lighthearted summer-association name belies his authority over administering the vicious, deadly lottery each year. This contrast between his temperament and his actions heightens the horror.
After Tessie’s family has selected the marked slip that seals Tessie’s fate, she immediately cries out that her husband Bill had inadequate time to select a paper. Mr. Graves dismisses her complaint briskly, echoing Mr. Summers early directive: “Be a good sport, Tessie.” As the oldest man in town and one of the lottery’s administrators, Mr. Graves prioritizes adherence to protocol over Tessie’s logical concerns about fairness. His use of the same language as Mr. Summers demonstrates the universality of this command among the village’s leadership. They do not tolerate any dissent, even when a woman’s life hangs in the balance.
Mr. Graves’ Name
The ominous name Mr. Graves associates him directly with death, reflecting his major role in carrying out the lottery’s fatal aims. While Mr. Summers represents the sunny obliviousness that allows the horror to endure, Mr. Graves embodies the inevitability of the darkness and mortality at the tradition’s core. His strict insistence that Tessie stay silent reinforces his function as an agent of merciless, uncompromising fate meted out by the lottery.
The most devastating order to be quiet comes from Tessie’s own husband, Bill Hutchinson. As Tessie continues to protest that the lottery drawing occurred too quickly, Bill firmly tells her “Shut up, Tessie.” This harsh command is shocking evidence that even Tessie’s life partner prioritizes adherence to the lottery process over his wife’s concerns. Though they are bound by marriage, Bill immediately turns on his spouse instead of supporting her completely rational claims. His willingness to silence her so forcefully underscores the pervasive social pressure to uphold the lottery tradition, no matter how unethical.
While Bill’s motivations cannot be confirmed, possible reasons for his acquiescence include:
- Fear of becoming an outcast if he supports Tessie’s dissent
- Belief that even if the drawing was unfair, chance selected Tessie so she must die
- Desire to protect himself and his other children from also being chosen
- Internalization of the lottery’s logic over many years of conditioning
Regardless of Bill’s rationale, his order to Tessie represents a deeply unsettling betrayal revealing the lottery’s power to turn loved ones against each other.
As Tessie continues desperately protesting while the villagers prepare to stone her, the mob mentality takes over. They drown out her cries of injustice by yelling “Shut up!” and telling her to “be a good sport.” Their indifference to her suffering demonstrates how thoroughly the lottery has stripped away their humanity. They now operate as a herd focused only on completing the ritual. Their commands reinforce the lottery’s control over both individuals and the collective psyche of the village. Even when basic morality demands objection, the townspeople quash any resistance by demanding silence.
Mob Mentality vs. Individual Conscience
The townspeople’s silencing illustrates psychologist Gustave Le Bon’s concept of the “mob mentality” at work. According to Le Bon, individuals who are part of a tightly knit crowd like the villagers can take actions they would never consider alone. By demanding Tessie’s silence, the townspeople demonstrate the phenomenon of diffused responsibility, wherein no single member of the crowd feels guilty because all participated. Tessie’s moral outrage as an individual stands no chance against the unconscious, irrational forces driving the throng forward to murder even without a shred of empathy.
Repetition of “Be a Good Sport” and “Shut Up”
The repetition of the phases “be a good sport” and “shut up” directed at Tessie reinforce how thoroughly the community attempts to suppress her dissent. While “be a good sport” carries the veneer of polite suggestion, it more insidiously orders Tessie to stop speaking out and accept her death. When she continues defiantly objecting, they switch to the openly hostile and violent “shut up,” seeking to finally crush her resistance.
The constant barrage of both phrases demonstrates the villagers’ deep aversion to having their murderous unity disrupted by moral protest. They ritually kill one of their own each year, yet cannot bear witness to their victim’s legitimate arguments against her own slaughter. By attacking her right to speech, they avoid confronting the truth of their barbarity. Ultimately, their repetitive silencing of Tessie proves they understand at some level that what they are doing is indefensibly wrong.
Lexicon of Conformity
Literary critic Shirley Truax argues that the phrases “be a good sport” and “shut up” represent a kind of “lexicon of conformity” demanded by the mob mentality. The villagers so reflexively turn to these stock commands that the words shut down dissent before any substantive resistance can form. Truax suggests that the lexicons we enforce upon each other can either liberate or oppress. In Tessie’s case, the lexicon violently suppresses her minority voice decrying the lottery’s atrocity.
Though battered into silence, Tessie never passively accepts her fate. Her vocal protests distinguish her heroically from the other villagers, who unquestioningly participate in the vicious tradition without protest. Tessie feels enough righteousness and self-worth to demand justice, even when surrounded by a murderous horde about to kill her. She functions as an ethical prophet boldly speaking truth, rather than mutely acquiescing to unexamined rules.
Some literary analysts see Tessie’s outcries as revealing her as more of a selfish, unsporting brat than a noble dissenter. But given the context of her imminent death, her desperate cries for fairness humanize her rather than detract from her positive attributes. Ultimately all victimized groups need voices willing to disrupt oppressive systems, even at personal risk. Though the mob ritually destroys her body, Tessie’s defiant spirit endures as a provocative question mark over the entire evil charade of the lottery.
Comparisons with Other Characters
|Response to Lottery
|Vocally protests, continues speaking out until stoned
|Silently accepts fate when family chosen; tells Tessie to shut up
|Notable in his “restraint” when his wife draws the marked slip
|Old Man Warner
|Staunch defender of the lottery tradition
This comparison shows Tessie’s response stands out as courageous when contrasted with the acquiescence of others. She powerfully demonstrates one person’s capacity to challenge unjust systems even against overwhelming tides of silent conformity or active oppression.
The way Tessie Hutchinson is repeatedly silenced in “The Lottery” provides disturbing insight into the violence mobs can inflict upon dissenting individuals. Her treatment reveals the dark dangers of collective groupthink overriding moral objections. Tessie functions as a bold questioning voice undaunted by the philosophical violence brought to bear against her right to speak. While hidebound traditions and conformity ultimately kill her body, Tessie’s spirit remains provocatively immortalized in the narrative as a heroic challenge to the perils of blind allegiance to ritualized brutality against the powerless.