Tradition is an essential component when building a society. Tradition is important for the formation of individual cultural identity, personal views and values. However, it may not always make a positive impact. When people are overwhelmed by their traditions and beliefs, it causes them to think in an bullheaded manner. In the stories “The Lottery” by Shirley Jackson and “The Jade Peony” by Wayson Choy, traditions passed on from previous generations negatively influence an individual’s mentality with obscure ethics, logic and ideals. This is evidenced by the perspective of the characters, which cannot see fault in certain actions because they were misled by their tradition.
The way a person is raised and what they are taught greatly affects their perspective which is clearly shown in both the stories because certain characters view their actions differently than others around them. Tessie Hutchinson claims that “It isn’t fair, it isn’t right” after she has been chosen by the lottery, meaning she would be stoned to death to improve the harvest. The sadistic ritual may seem absurd in the perspective of the reader, but to most of the townsfolk it is an ordinary event. They are accustomed to this tradition and do not see how it is flawed. Similarly, in “the Jade Peony,” Sek Lung’s siblings see their grandmother’s habits as abnormal. They reflect Chinese traditions that “[are] appropriate in a poor village in China, [but] an abomination here.” Despite the family strongly disagreeing with her habits, it does not prevent her from doing them. The grandmother is unable to see how her traditions are inappropriate in current surroundings.
The authors show that no matter the nature of the tradition, it have will have supporters. As the number of supporters increase it causes a snowball effect because it draws more individuals to join, so the tradition becomes harder to oppose. In “The Lottery”, Tessie pleaded for a redraw after being chosen for the lottery, but she was disregarded by the residents, since no one agreed with her stance. The gruesome tradition continues every year, as the majority of the town supports it. In the “Jade Peony,” the grandmother continues to search for junk, and disregards her family’s disapproval of the activity. She spends the majority of her life following similar routines, so at such an old age the tradition has become permanent through repetition. These characters have difficulty changing their mindset because they are over-committed to their traditions. The dedication they have for their tradition is so extreme that they cannot accept other opinions.
People do not see flaws in the traditions that are passed on to them because it is how they were taught. It restricts their minds from being receptive to new ideas. If the characters in “The L20ottery” were told that it would be wrong to need someone who will write my thesis, to help me study, they would be unable to accept that opinion. The tradition has become a part of them, and they cannot assimilate new beliefs. Similarly, Sek Lung’s Grandmother, in spite of her body failing, does not see the need to go to the hospital. She believes that her ritual of “boiling of ginseng roots mixed with bitter extract” will cure her, which is not the case. It is not until near death does she realize she must go to the hospital, but it is too late. In both scenarios, tradition has placed a mental barrier preventing the characters from accepting change. Continuing to follow these traditions without regard to the bigger picture can lead to a negative outcome.
Tradition will always play a crucial role in the development of human society despite the type of implications it may have. That said, it is important people are not blinded by their attachment to traditions, especially when they are harmful. Ultimately, Jackson’s “The Lottery” and Choy’s “The Jade Peony” both demonstrate the negative impacts of allowing traditions to overtake their characters’ moral and logical compasses. The authors intend for the audience to learn the valuable lesson that old traditions should not hold back society from progressing. The meaning of tradition is to add value to life and change society for the better.