The Lottery

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The oldest man in the village, Old Man Warner presents the voice of tradition among the villagers. He speaks strongly in favor of continuing the lottery, because he claims that to end it would be to return society to a primitive state, permitting all sorts of other problems to arise.

Old Man Warner Quotes in The Lottery

The The Lottery quotes below are all either spoken by Old Man Warner or refer to Old Man Warner. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
The Juxtaposition of Peace and Violence Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Farrar, Strauss and Giroux edition of The Lottery published in 2005.
The Lottery Quotes

The original paraphernalia for the lottery had been lost long ago, and the black box now resting on the stool had been put into use even before Old Man Warner, the oldest man in town, was born. 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. There was a story that the present box had been made with some pieces of the box that had preceded it, the one that had been constructed when the first people settled down to make a village here.

Related Characters: Mr. Joe Summers, Old Man Warner
Related Symbols: The Black Box
Page Number: 292
Explanation and Analysis:

As the villages begin preparing for the annual lottery, the story presents the objects and rituals involved in the lottery. One of these is a black box from which the villagers draw pieces of paper according to their family groups. This passage describes the authority the box itself has in the lottery, and how objects can take on a mysterious power when they have been used as part of a tradition for a long time. Every world religion has significant objects and artifacts, as do many secular traditions, and this passage references this universal idea: humans value traditions and the objects that are associated with them, often for no other reason than becausethey are old and associated with tradition.

This quote also shows the villagers operating as a collective whole. An individual, such as Mr. Summers, who has a different idea of what to do (in this case, change the black box) doesn’t persist against the popular opinion that the box shouldn’t change. This shows the willingness of individuals to conform to the popular opinions of society, and how such group conformity can even lead to monstrous traditions like the lottery itself.

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Old Man Warner snorted. “Pack of crazy fools,” he said. “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, nobody work any more, live that way for a while. 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. There’s always been a lottery,” he added petulantly. “Bad enough to see young Joe Summers up there joking with everybody.”
“Some places have already quit lotteries,” Mrs. Adams said.
“Nothing but trouble in that,” Old Man Warner said stoutly. “Pack of young fools.”

Related Characters: Old Man Warner (speaker), Mrs. Adams (speaker), Mr. Joe Summers
Page Number: 297
Explanation and Analysis:

As the lottery continues, Old Man Warner and Mr. and Mrs. Adams discuss the possibility that the lottery could end in their village, as it has already been dispensed with in other places. Old Man Warner speaks out vehemently against the termination of the lottery. Old Man Warner is a persuasive, if irrational, speaker. He doesn’t argue for the value of the lottery, but instead just belittles those who advocate for its removal, undermining their ideas by calling them “crazy” and “fools.” He also defends the lottery by saying that it is part of the forward progress of society and civilization. He makes this argument by associating the end of the lottery with other regressions, like living in caves, not working, eating primitive food—which are presented as obvious mistakes to the average listener or reader. Old Man Warner places giving up on the lottery in the same foolish category in order to persuade his listeners.

Despite his persuasive speech, Old Man Warner believes in the lottery solely because it is a tradition. He points out that “there’s always been a lottery,” which, in his mind, is a reason to continue it. He has no logical reason for continuing the tradition, except that it is old—just like himself.

Tessie Hutchinson was in the center of a cleared space by now, and she held her hands out desperately as the villagers moved in on her. “It isn’t fair,” she said. A stone hit her on the side of the head. Old Man Warner was saying, “Come on, come on, everyone.” Steve Adams was in the front of the crowd of villagers, with Mrs. Graves beside him.
“It isn’t fair, it isn’t right,” Mrs. Hutchinson screamed, and then they were upon her.

Related Characters: Tessie Hutchinson (speaker), Old Man Warner (speaker), Mrs. Graves, Steve Adams
Related Symbols: Stones
Page Number: 302
Explanation and Analysis:

The story ends with the stoning of Tessie Hutchinson. She stands alone in a cleared space as the villagers approach, armed with stones. This outcome of events unfolds in the last several few lines, making the "twist" particularly shocking, partly because of the effort early in the story to establish that this is an average, nice village. The cruelty of the villagers and their collective thinking is apparent in this final passage, especially in the last words “and then they were upon her”—language that evokes the brutality of a pack of dogs, not humans. Old Man Warner is egging the villagers on as they attack, encouraging them, showing that the villagers are working as a unit. Despite the mob mentality of the villagers, specific individuals are mentioned in the crowd. Steve Adams and Mrs. Graves have already been established in the story as regular people, yet they appear eager for violence in this passage.

Tessie stands alone, her physical isolation showing that she has been isolated as a solitary voice standing up against the crowd. She tries to protest, shifting from “it isn’t fair” to “it isn’t right”—the last words the reader hears from her. She is the only voice of reason in a group that has gone insane. The fairness of the lottery has been emphasized to Tessie—as the other villagers reminded her that everyone took a fair chance at being chosen. However, it is clear Tessie's death is pointless and not right.

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Old Man Warner Character Timeline in The Lottery

The timeline below shows where the character Old Man Warner appears in The Lottery. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
The Lottery
Family Structure and Gender Roles Theme Icon
The Power of Tradition Theme Icon
Dystopian Society and Conformity Theme Icon
...“got a man to do it.” Mr. Summers finishes up his questions by asking if Old Man Warner has made it. The old man declares “here” from the crowd. (full context)
The Power of Tradition Theme Icon
Dystopian Society and Conformity Theme Icon
In the crowd, Mr. Adams turns to Old Man Warner and says that apparently the north village is considering giving up the lottery. Old Man... (full context)
Family Structure and Gender Roles Theme Icon
The Power of Tradition Theme Icon
Dystopian Society and Conformity Theme Icon
...names. Mrs. Dunbar instructs him to run and tell his father once they’re done. When Old Man Warner is called to select his slip of paper, he says that this is his seventy-seventh... (full context)
The Juxtaposition of Peace and Violence Theme Icon
Human Nature Theme Icon
The Power of Tradition Theme Icon
Dystopian Society and Conformity Theme Icon
...except for a girl who is overheard whispering that she hopes it’s not Nancy. Then Old Man Warner says that the lottery isn’t the way it used to be, and that people have... (full context)
Human Nature Theme Icon
The Power of Tradition Theme Icon
Dystopian Society and Conformity Theme Icon
...crowd advances toward her. A flying stone hits her on the side of her head. Old Man Warner urges everyone forward, and Steve Adams and Mrs. Graves are at the front of the... (full context)