Analysis on Old Tradition
Chinua Achebe's "Dead Men’s Path" and Shirley Jackson's "The Lottery" both
mention an old tradition in the stories. However, the two traditions are totally different
categories. And the two stories show two different kinds of attitudes people need to
hold when facing legends. There is no doubt that essential customs need to be respected,
while waste customs need to be rejected. To find out the best way for old traditions,
analysis is a necessary action to be noticed. In the two stories, the importance of analysis
also appears. In the following paragraphers, the importance of analysis on old traditions
will be proved with the help of the two short stories.
In the "Dead Men's Path," Chinua Achebe created a headmaster who is a young
headmaster. Michael Obi works hard and wants to achieve some successes as a
headmaster in an unprogressive school. As a "progressive" educator, Obi insists on his
principles to manage the school that refuses to give some space for a path which
connects the village shrine and the place of burial. His stubborn decision makes the
villagers think the ruin of the path annoying their ancestors, so a young woman died in
childbed. Another day, Obi's work has been destroyed by angry villagers (Achebe 187).
A small but failed concession on the custom finally leads to an internecine ending.
Differently, "The Lottery" describes a story which follows the old custom, but
another's death is also caused. All the villager gather for the result of an annual "lottery."
The one who gets the lottery will be hit by stones until sying (Jackson 235). In this story,
Shirley Jackson shows the readers how observing traditions blindly eventually leads to
The traditions in these two stories both cause terrible outcomes. However, the
ways traditions cause harm are different. In other words, the two stories represent two
various aspects of old traditions. Ancient traditions can be both meaningful and harmful.
In the "Dead Men's Path," the headmaster does not respect the old culture which is
significant to the village. He blindly chases his own ambition for his career by the "new
way," while ignoring the "old way." His lack of thinking and showing respects on the
traditions make himself lose the chance for success. To the contrary, the villagers in the
story of "The Lottery" obey the old tradition excessively. They never tried to think or
contradict anything about the dated custom they are acting. Too much trust in the
tradition causes the tragedy of Mrs. Hutchinson's death.
These two stories tell the truth that old traditions need to be analyzed. That is
because of the bad endings of the two short stories come from the lack of analysis. In
Chinua Achebe's novel, Obi merely sees one part of the path, that is the occupied space
of the school. One article points out that from Obi's perspective, leading people away
from "fantastic notions" is the duty of the school ("Overview..." n.p.). Obi may consider
the occupation of the school compound for such a "religious" path as a destruction for
the modern education method which he insists. Different from the meaning of the route
for Obi, the road has a more significant meaning for the villagers. Obi may think the
thought of "path for dead men" is footling and unenlightened, while villagers regard it
as a heritage of their culture and history. Obi's action just reveals that he does not have
enough understanding of the traditions. Ancient traditions need more analysis. By this
way, they can achieve more understanding. If Obi can think more and analyze more,
the ending of the story may be different.
The old tradition in "The Lottery" has a similar problem. From the beginning of
the story, the writer tries to create a kind of collectivistic atmosphere. That is just
another big problem which exists in the field of traditions. In the story, "no one
speculates on the meaning of the lottery" (Oates 47). People are told to do so, and they
perform this annual "activity" because they merely want to do it. No one tries to analyze
the meanings behind this tradition. No one wants to find the historical or the cultural
origins of the tradition. And no one wants to ask if the tradition is still suitable for the
time. So no one tries to change it. Even the "black box," which is the tool for the lottery,
is so old and broken, but people never try to change it. Also, no one asks the origin of
the box. Lack of thinking and analyzing becomes the "prime culprit" of the sad ending.
From these two stories, readers can see that traditions need analysis so that they
can be observed in a better way. For different aspects from different stages which are
connected with customs, analysis is always a significant element. Before taking any
actions to carry out traditions, learning the historical sources and cultural background
is still a necessary step. For the reason that it is an excellent way to understand one
tradition profoundly and comprehensively. There is an old saying in China, that is
"Know yourself and know the enemy, you will win every war." Learning the story
behind is the premise to implement a tradition. When preparing a tradition, analysis
plays its most significant role. Analyze the advantages and disadvantages of one
tradition objectively to see whether it keeps up with the times, and where the tradition
stands, positive, negative or neutral positions. And the most important is, try to decide
from the analysis of whether to accept or reserve the tradition or not. If possible, some
modifications may also be applied to a tradition. The next stage is the implemented
process. During the process, noticing problems which exist and receiving feedbacks are
essential. By analyzing these problems and feedbacks, corrections can be added on time.
Last but not least, rethinking is necessary, too. It can be helpful to find problems which
still exist and make sure a tradition will not be opposed or denounced by the current
In conclusion, analysis is an essential factor for old traditions which cannot be
ignored. Merely from these two stories, analysis is quite an important cause. However,
more details still deserver considerations.
Achebe, Chinua. “Dead Men’s Path.” Backpack Literature. Edited by X. J. Kennedy
and Dana Gioia 5thed., Person, 2016. p. 187
Jackson, Shirley. “The Lottery.” Backpack Literature. Edited by X. J. Kennedy and
Dana Gioia 5thed., Person, 2016. p. 235
Oates, Joyce Carol. “Shirley Jackson in Love & Death.” New York Review of Books,
vol. 63, no. 16, Oct. 2016, pp. 47–51. EBSCOhost,
"Overview: 'Dead Men's Path'." Short Stories for Students, edited by Matthew Derda,
vol. 37, Gale, 2013. Literature Resource
14 Apr. 2019.
Purchase answer to see full