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Similarities Between The Lottery & The Hunger Games

Instructor: Jennifer Carnevale

Jennifer has a dual master's in English literature/teaching and is currently a high school English teacher. She teaches college classes on the side.

When people gamble, the only fear is losing money. But in the short story, ''The Lottery'' by Shirley Jackson and ''The Hunger Games'' by Suzanne Collins, the price is life. Read on to learn about the similarities between the two stories.

A Common Thread

Have you ever read a story and started to connect certain themes or concepts to other novels? The more you read, the more common this occurrence becomes. In this lesson we will focus on two published stories, ''The Lottery'' by Shirley Jackson and ''The Hunger Games'' by Suzanne Collins, and see how these tales are connected, even though they were published sixty years apart.

The Stories

If you know anything about the stories in question, you immediately see the similarities between these two tales of competition, luck, and death. Let's take a look at a summary of each before we dive into our analysis.

''The Hunger Games'' Summary

''The Hunger Games'' was published in 2008. Following the trend of dystopian novels, Collins wrote this young adult novel with the themes of war, sacrifice, family, and government control.

The novel opens with the main character, Katniss Everdeen, who lives in District 12 with her sister and mother. Once a year, two names are selected at random from a pool of children; the selected participants will be sent to the Capitol, with children from the other eleven districts to fight for their lives in the arena. The winner receives resources for their district and more importantly, they get to keep their life.

The Games begin with two children selected randomly from each district. Every name is entered at least once and pulled at random.
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Katniss is put through numerous experiences that test her mental and physical strength, along with the underlying love triangle with her best friend Gale and her district partner Peeta. The two are victorious but not without consequence. Only one is allowed to be crowned the Victor, but through manipulation and perseverance, the two beat the odds and return home together.

''The Lottery'' Summary

''The Lottery,'' is a short story published in 1948. The story centers around a town tradition in which each male head of the household has to pull a slip of paper from an old black box. Whichever person selects the slip with a black dot on it has to pull again, along with their entire family. Each family member pulls a slip, and the person with the black dot is stoned to death to honor the upcoming harvest.

Even the children participate in the stoning of the selected sacrifice.
Image of stones in hand.

In this case, Mrs. Tessie Hutchinson's husband drew the slip of paper that causes her and her family to have to pull again. Unfortunately for Tessie, she pulls the paper with the black dot. Once the town acknowledges her paper, they close in on her, throwing rocks at her head. Tessie begs for mercy, but everyone carries out the traditional sacrifice.

The Connections

While both stories were written in different centuries, they connect not only thematically, but through similarities in plot.

Traditional Ceremonies

Both stories are based on disturbing traditions where people of the community are sent off to die. And interestingly enough, both center around the concept of food or eating. In ''The Lottery,'' the community prepares for the tradition by gathering rocks to throw at the chosen one, and all seem to do so without question. In ''The Hunger Games,'' all are called to the center of the district, just like in Jackson's work. In similar fashion, names are pulled out of a jar and read to the group.

While the winner of the Hunger Games receives a bounty of resources for their district, the idea of a human sacrifice is the same in ''The Lottery.'' The tradition states, ''Lottery in June, corn be heavy soon,'' implying the sacrifice will bring about a bountiful crop for the town.

Luck and Death

In both stories, the selected participant(s) will face death, however, in ''The Hunger Games,'' the participants have a chance to fight. In both cases, luck determines who will be selected, since there are no other criteria when it comes to each process. And it's interesting to note that in both communities, the people accept these traditions as their fate, and children participate in the violence inflicted on the chosen person/people.

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