What Does Mr. Warner Symbolize in The Lottery? Understanding the Symbolism Behind the Controversial Character

It’s no secret that Shirley Jackson’s “The Lottery” is one of the most iconic short stories in the literary world. Its shocking twist ending is still talked about and analyzed decades after its initial release. But one of the most intriguing characters in the story often gets overlooked – Old Man Warner. So what does Mr. Warner symbolize in the lottery? Let’s dive deeper into the story.

Old Man Warner is a staunch supporter of the lottery and believes it is necessary for the well-being of the community. He is one of the oldest members of the town and has witnessed the lottery for over seventy years. His very existence symbolizes tradition and history – the idea that things have always been done this way and should continue to be done this way. But as the story progresses, we see the darker side of Mr. Warner’s unwavering loyalty to tradition.

In many ways, Mr. Warner represents the darker side of humanity. His belief in the lottery is so strong that he is willing to overlook the brutality and inhumanity of the ritual. His blind loyalty to tradition and his resistance to change reflect the dangerous power that traditions and customs can hold. In the end, Mr. Warner symbolizes the very real dangers of complacency and the importance of questioning long-standing traditions, even if they have been a part of our lives for decades or even centuries. So, what does Mr. Warner symbolize in the lottery? Perhaps the answer is a warning to all of us.

The Symbolism of Mr. Warner in “The Lottery”

Mr. Warner is a prominent character in “The Lottery” by Shirley Jackson, who plays a crucial role in the symbolic meaning of the story.

Here are some key points to consider:

  • Mr. Warner is one of the oldest residents in the village. His age and his conservative behavior represent a connection to the past tradition of the lottery, which has been going on for as long as anyone can remember.
  • His name itself carries a symbolic meaning. The term “warner” refers to someone who warns others of impending danger. In the story, Mr. Warner tries to warn the villagers that changing the tradition of the lottery could bring about disastrous consequences.
  • Mr. Warner’s attitude towards the lottery is also indicative of the blind adherence to tradition. He is shown as being comfortable with the notion that someone has to be sacrificed for the social good, and that any deviation from the norm could lead to a breakdown of the village’s social order.

Overall, Mr. Warner epitomizes the sense of groupthink that underlies the brutal act of the lottery. Through his character, Shirley Jackson exposes the dangers of tradition and the unwillingness to change even in the face of injustice and oppression.

The History and Context of “The Lottery” by Shirley Jackson

Shirley Jackson’s “The Lottery” is a short story published in 1948 that has become a classic in American literature and a mainstay in high school English curricula. The story is set in a small town that gathers every year for a ritualistic stoning of one of its citizens in the name of tradition.

  • The story was originally published in The New Yorker magazine, which received more than 300 letters from readers, both praising and condemning the story’s violent and disturbing subject matter.
  • Jackson has stated that the inspiration for the story came from her own experiences living in a small town and observing the ways in which people blindly follow tradition, even when it is harmful and irrational.
  • “The Lottery” was also influenced by the rise of authoritarianism and the conformity that was prevalent in post-World War II America, as well as by Jackson’s own struggles with mental illness.

One of the most striking elements of “The Lottery” is the character of Mr. Warner, who serves as a symbol of the town’s blind adherence to tradition and resistance to change.

Throughout the story, Mr. Warner is shown as a staunch defender of the lottery and its gruesome practices, even in the face of growing opposition from younger members of the community. He dismisses their concerns and insists that the tradition must be continued, no matter the cost.

Quotes about Mr. Warner Analysis
“. . . Mr. Summers spoke frequently to the villagers about making a new box, but no one liked to upset even as much tradition as was represented by the black box.” This quote shows how resistant the townspeople are to change, with Mr. Warner being a prime example of this. He values tradition over reason and insists on the outdated customs of the town, even if they result in death.
“It’s not the way it used to be . . . People ain’t the way they used to be.” Mr. Warner’s belief that the younger generation has lost touch with the traditions of the town further emphasizes the generational divide and the importance of tradition in the story.
“Lottery in June, corn be heavy soon.” This chant, repeated throughout the story, serves as a reminder of the supposed benefits of the ritualistic stoning – abundant crops. Mr. Warner is so entrenched in the tradition that he is willing to overlook the appalling violence and focus solely on the supposed material gains.

In conclusion, Mr. Warner symbolizes the dangers of blindly following tradition and resisting change, even in the face of overwhelming evidence that it is harmful. His character serves as a warning about the dangers of conformity and the importance of critical thinking, even when it means questioning long-held beliefs and practices.

The Role of Tradition in “The Lottery”

One of the most striking aspects of “The Lottery” is the role of tradition. The lottery has been taking place in this small town for as long as anyone can remember. The villagers see it as an essential part of their way of life, and they are unwilling to give it up, regardless of the consequences.

  • Blindly following tradition: The villagers in “The Lottery” continue to carry out this barbaric ritual simply because it has always been done that way. They do not question the morality or ethics behind their actions, but rather blindly follow the tradition set by their ancestors.
  • The pressure to conform: Those who do question the lottery, such as Tessie Hutchinson, are immediately met with opposition. The villagers pressure them to conform to the tradition and punish those who do not comply.
  • The power of tradition: Jackson’s use of tradition as a theme in “The Lottery” highlights the power of tradition in communities. The villagers are so committed to the lottery that they are willing to overlook the violence and brutality it entails.

The symbolism of Mr. Warner in “The Lottery”

Mr. Warner is one of the oldest villagers in the story, and he has been participating in the lottery since he was a young boy. He is also the one who suggests that the lottery may not exist in other towns and that they may want to stop doing it.

However, despite his suggestion, Mr. Warner continues to take part in the lottery. He symbolizes the conflicted nature of tradition in “The Lottery.” On the one hand, he recognizes the absurdity and brutality of the lottery. On the other hand, he cannot bring himself to break with tradition.

The use of symbolism in “The Lottery”

One of the most significant literary devices used in “The Lottery” is symbolism. Jackson uses various symbols throughout the story to convey different messages.

Symbol Meaning
The black box Represents the tradition of the lottery and the violence and brutality that comes with it.
The stones Symbolize the power of the group. Everyone in the village comes together to stone the person who is chosen as the sacrifice.
The lottery Represents the danger of blindly following tradition and the power of conformity in society.

Jackson’s use of symbolism highlights the themes of the story and adds layers of complexity to the narrative.

The meaning of the black box in “The Lottery”

The black box in “The Lottery” represents tradition, as it has been used in the annual lottery ritual for generations. It symbolizes the ritual’s origins, as the box has been in use for so long that even the oldest resident of the village cannot remember its creation. It is a vessel of both the past and the present, and it is necessary for the lottery to take place.

  • The color black is often associated with death and mourning, which foreshadows the lethal nature of the lottery.
  • The box’s shabby appearance is a physical manifestation of the village’s reluctance to modernize and change the tradition.
  • The box’s rusticity is also a nod to the lottery’s roots in agrarian society and the importance of the harvest.

The black box’s importance is evident in the way the villagers treat it with reverence and care. Every year before the lottery, the box is kept under lock and key in the post office.

The number of people present in the village, 300, is also significant. It serves as a reminder of the number of people who were present at the original lottery. However, the number four is the most prominent number in the story.

Number Four in “The Lottery” Meaning
Fourth Wednesday in June The date on which the lottery takes place, emphasizing the event’s regularity and unchanging nature.
Four people in the Hutchinson family The focus of the story, highlighting the personal impact of the lottery’s brutality.
Four-legged stool used to hold the box Symbolizes stability and permanence.
Four directions The villagers face each direction while drawing the slips of paper, emphasizing the way the tradition is a community event.

The presence of the number four adds to the story’s structure and cohesiveness. It serves as a reminder that this horrifying tradition has been repeated four times every decade for generations, and that the villagers have become so accustomed to its brutality that they don’t even think to question it.

In conclusion, the black box and the number four are significant symbols in “The Lottery.” They highlight the importance of tradition and routine, and the dangers of blindly following tradition, even if it is harmful.

The Use of Foreshadowing in “The Lottery”

Shirley Jackson effectively uses foreshadowing in “The Lottery” to hint at the impending horror of the ritual sacrifice. One key element of foreshadowing is the symbolism behind Mr. Warner’s character.

The Symbolism of Mr. Warner

Mr. Warner is a prominent member of the community who has participated in the lottery for seventy-seven years. His name is telling – “warner” suggests a harbinger of danger. Through his words and actions, Mr. Warner symbolizes the deep-rooted tradition and blind acceptance of the lottery, even though it involves the senseless murder of a member of their own community.

One example of Mr. Warner’s symbolism is when he is engaged in a discussion with Old Man Adams about the lottery in the days leading up to the event. Mr. Adams suggests that they stop the lottery, to which Mr. Warner responds, “Pack of crazy fools. Listening to the young folks, nothing’s good enough for them. Next thing you know, they’ll be wanting to go back to living in caves.” This highlights how Mr. Warner is against change and is willing to perpetuate the lottery just because it is a long-standing tradition.

Another example is when Mr. Warner is the first person to arrive at the lottery, carrying a large stone. This serves as a foreshadowing of the stoning ritual that is to take place, as well as Mr. Warner’s eagerness to participate in the violence.

  • Mr. Warner symbolizes:
  • The blind acceptance of tradition
  • The resistance to change
  • The willingness to participate in senseless violence

Through the use of Mr. Warner’s character, Shirley Jackson effectively builds tension and foreshadows the violent conclusion of the lottery. His presence serves as a warning that the community’s devotion to tradition can have deadly consequences.


Overall, “The Lottery” is a powerful literary work that explores the dangerous potential of groupthink and the unwillingness to question tradition. Through the symbolism of Mr. Warner, Shirley Jackson effectively uses foreshadowing to build tension and warn readers of the danger of blindly accepting long-standing traditions, even if they lead to horrific outcomes.

Symbolism Description
Mr. Warner Symbolizes tradition, resistance to change, and the willingness to participate in violence.
The Lottery” itself Symbolizes the danger of blindly following traditions and the potential for groupthink to lead to horrific outcomes.
The Black Box Symbolizes the weight of tradition and the fear of the unknown.

The use of foreshadowing through these symbols culminates in a shocking and horrific conclusion that lingers in the mind of the reader long after the story has ended.

The symbolism of the stones in “The Lottery”

Shirley Jackson’s famous short story “The Lottery” is a brutal examination of humanity’s propensity for violence and oppression. One of the most critical aspects of the story is the symbolism of the stones used to kill the victim of the titular lottery. In this article, we will explore the deep significance behind the stones and what they represent in the story.

The Number 6: A Symbol of Imperfection

In the story, the Hutchinson family draws the marked slip of paper, forcing them to select one of their members to receive the fatal blow from the stones. However, the number 6 is a recurring motif in “The Lottery,” representing imperfection and incompleteness. For example:

  • The lottery takes place on the 27th of June, which adds up to six (2+7=9, and 9-3=6).
  • The lottery is conducted in the town square, which has six sides.
  • There are six members in the Hutchinson family.

All of these occurrences of the number 6 highlight the idea that the lottery is not a perfect system. Despite the town’s strong belief in the ritual, the selection of a victim is arbitrary and unjust.

The Stones: Instruments of Death and Punishment

The stones used to kill the victim also hold immense significance in the story. They represent the arbitrary nature of violence and punishment. Just as the lottery selection is random, so is the choice of weapon. Perhaps if it were a knife or a gun, the townspeople would feel the weight of their actions more acutely, but because it is something as common as a rock, they can distance themselves from the violence.

The stones also function as an extension of the townspeople’s collective will. The participants take turns drawing stones from the pile, and each member of the community contributes to the selection of a victim. This conformity and participation in the violence demonstrates how easily people can be swayed to commit terrible acts in the name of tradition and social order.

The Final Message: Privilege, Power, and Violence

In conclusion, the stones in “The Lottery” are a symbol of the arbitrary, cruel nature of punishment and violence. Jackson uses the stones to illustrate how easily people can be swayed to commit terrible acts in the name of tradition and social order. By highlighting the number 6 and the town’s participation in the fatal ritual, Jackson underscores the critical message that privilege and power can often beget violence and oppression.

Symbol Meaning
The Number 6 Imperfection and incompleteness
The Stones Arbitrary and cruel instruments of punishment and violence

The stones are a chilling reminder of humanity’s capacity for violence, and Shirley Jackson’s “The Lottery” serves as a warning that we must remain vigilant against the dangerous allure of tradition and social order.

The concept of sacrifice in “The Lottery”

The short story “The Lottery” by Shirley Jackson is a classic example of a literary work that explores the theme of sacrifice. In the story, the inhabitants of a small town gather together for their annual lottery, not realizing that the person who draws the winning ticket will be the one who is sacrificed to ensure a bountiful harvest for the coming year.

The number 7 in “The Lottery”

  • One of the most interesting symbols in “The Lottery” is the number 7, which appears throughout the story in various ways.
  • First, there are 7 heads of households in the town – Old Man Warner, who is the oldest and most traditional member of the community, points out that this is significant because there are 7 days in a week, 7 seas, and 7 continents.
  • Furthermore, when the lottery begins, the villagers draw lots from a black box that has been used for generations. On the box are 3-legged stools, and the box itself is made of wood from the original box. At the end of the drawing, the person who has drawn the marked paper, this time the number 7, is declared the winner.
  • This repetition of the number 7 creates a sense of ritual and tradition in the story, highlighting how deeply ingrained the practice of sacrifice is in the town’s culture.

The tradition of sacrifice

The tradition of sacrifice is a central element of “The Lottery”. The villagers have been performing the lottery for so long that they don’t question its purpose or the morality of their actions. Similarly, the reader is presented with the tradition of the lottery without any explanation or justification. This lack of context forces us to question our own ideas about tradition and the nature of sacrifice.

Moreover, Old Man Warner’s insistence on the importance of the lottery highlights how, for some, the tradition of sacrificing one individual for the benefit of the community is viewed as necessary and even desirable. This troubling notion underscores the dark theme of “The Lottery: that tradition and ritual can obscure moral judgment and allow horrific acts to be carried out in the name of tradition and community.

Symbolism in “The Lottery” How it relates to the concept of sacrifice
The black box Represents the history and tradition of the lottery, making it difficult for the villagers to imagine a world without it
The marked paper Is used to randomly select the victim, demonstrating the idea that anyone could be sacrificed for the sake of the community
The stones used to kill the victim Symbolize the violence and brutality of the sacrifice ritual, emphasizing the high cost of the presumed benefits

Overall, the use of symbolism in “The Lottery” reinforces the theme of sacrifice and tradition. The number 7 specifically represents the deeply ingrained nature of sacrifice within the town’s culture while the tradition of the lottery itself exposes the dangers of blindly following tradition without questioning its purpose or morality.

The significance of the title “The Lottery”

Shirley Jackson’s short story, “The Lottery,” has become a classic piece of literature due to its shocking twist ending that leaves readers with a haunting feeling. At its core, the story explores the dangerous power dynamics within a small village and the rituals that uphold them. One of the key symbols in the story is Mr. Warner, a man who holds a peculiar belief about the number eight.

The significance of number eight

  • Mr. Warner believes that “Seventy-seventh year I been in the lottery” and that the lottery has “been all around since the long-ago June” (Jackson 5).
  • According to Warner, the number of people in the town has changed, but the number of slips of paper has remained the same: “Used to be a saying about ‘Lottery in June, corn be heavy soon.’ First thing you know, we’d all be eating stewed chickweed and acorns” (Jackson 5).
  • The number eight could symbolize infinity to Mr. Warner, as he believes that the annual lottery is an unbreakable, ongoing tradition.

This fixation on the number eight highlights the beauty and terror of tradition, as it shows how something seemingly arbitrary can become so ingrained in a community that it becomes a fundamental part of their identity. Furthermore, Mr. Warner’s belief in the power of the number eight underscores the villagers’ resistance to change and the fear they have of breaking with tradition.


The number eight in “The Lottery” is a potent symbol that reinforces the themes of tradition and power. Through Mr. Warner’s fixation on the number, readers can understand the depth of the villagers’ attachment to the lottery, as well as their fear of breaking away from it. Ultimately, the story’s shocking conclusion reminds us of the danger of blindly following tradition without questioning it first.

Symbolism Meaning
The lottery box Represents the barbaric lottery system of the town.
The black box Suggests death, as the box is the instrument of the chosen person’s death.
The stones Represent the villagers’ complicity in murder

The table above shows other important symbols present in “The Lottery,” contributing to its multi-layered commentary on the human condition.

The commentary on human nature in “The Lottery”

Shirley Jackson’s “The Lottery” is a powerful commentary on human nature. The story essentially shows how people can turn on one another and engage in violent and destructive behavior. As the story unfolds, we see how a small town gathers for their yearly lottery, and a seemingly harmless tradition turns into a brutal and deadly act.

The significance of Mr. Warner in “The Lottery”

  • Mr. Warner is one of the oldest residents of the town and has participated in the lottery for over seventy-seven years. He is known for his outspokenness and his reluctance to change.
  • Mr. Warner symbolizes the stubbornness and resistance to change that often exists in communities and society as a whole. Despite the obvious flaws of the lottery and the harm it causes, he continues to participate in it because it’s always been done that way.
  • His character also highlights how people can become desensitized to violent and inhumane acts if they are normalized and accepted in society. His willingness to participate and his casual attitude towards the violence and death that ensues is a reflection of the human capacity to become numb to the suffering of others.

The number “9” in “The Lottery”

The number “9” holds significance in several ways throughout the story:

  • Nine families participate in the lottery, emphasizing the notion that the entire community is involved in the tradition and responsible for its consequences.
  • Nine is also the number of times Tessie Hutchinson protests against the lottery and tries to escape her fate. This highlights the futility of resistance against a system that is deeply ingrained in the community’s beliefs and practices.
Symbolism Description
The black box Symbolizes the tradition and history of the lottery, which creates a false sense of continuity and stability in the community. It also represents the ominous and foreboding nature of the ritual.
The stones Symbolize the community’s willingness to participate in violence and harm others. They represent the collective power of the group and how people are willing to surrender their own moral compass in order to conform to societal norms.

Overall, “The Lottery” serves as a warning about the dangers of blindly following tradition and the capacity of humans to engage in violent and inhumane acts. Mr. Warner and the symbolism of “9” play a vital role in highlighting the commentary on human nature that Jackson is making, which is just as relevant today as it was when the story was first published in 1948.

The controversy surrounding “The Lottery” and censorship.

Shirley Jackson’s short story “The Lottery” has stirred controversy and criticism due to its shocking and grisly ending. The story centers around a small town in which one person is stoned to death each year as part of a traditional lottery. The twist ending has left readers and literary critics alike questioning the symbolism and meaning behind the story.

Many have argued that “The Lottery” should be censored or banned due to its violent content and the potential psychological harm it could cause to readers. Others, however, argue that censorship of any kind goes against the principles of free speech and artistic expression.

  • Some critics of “The Lottery” claim that the story glorifies violence and presents it as a solution to societal problems. They argue that readers may come away with the impression that violence is an acceptable means of maintaining social order.
  • Others argue that the story is actually a commentary on the dangers of blindly following tradition and sacrificing individuality for the sake of conformity. They argue that the brutality of the lottery serves as a metaphor for the groupthink mentality that can lead to dangerous and oppressive societal norms.
  • Shirley Jackson herself commented on the controversy surrounding her story, stating that she was surprised by its reception and that many readers did not seem to understand the point she was trying to convey.

Despite the controversy, “The Lottery” continues to be taught in classrooms and analyzed by literary scholars. Its lasting impact on American literature and culture cannot be denied, and its symbolism and themes continue to spark debate and conversation.

Pros of censorship Cons of censorship
– Protects readers from potentially harmful content – Limits freedom of speech and artistic expression
– Can prevent the spread of dangerous ideas or ideologies – May result in a lack of diverse perspectives and ideas
– Can protect the vulnerable, such as children or individuals with mental health issues – Can be used as a tool of oppression and censorship of minority groups or marginalized voices

Ultimately, the debate surrounding “The Lottery” and censorship speaks to the larger cultural conversations around what is considered acceptable content in literature and media. It underscores the importance of critical thinking and analysis of the messages and symbolism presented in any form of artistic expression.

Thanks for Joining the Lottery!

We hope this article has shed some light on the symbolism of Mr. Warner in “The Lottery.” His presence in the story adds an element of tension and unease, but also serves as a reminder of the importance of tradition and the power of groupthink. Don’t hesitate to visit us again for more literary analysis and discussions. And remember, when it comes to the lottery, you never know what fate has in store.