One of the starkest moments in the story is when the narrator bluntly states, "A stone hit her on the side of the head." From a grammatical standpoint, the sentence is structured so that no one actually threw the stone -- it's as if the stone hit Tessie of its own accord. All the villagers participate (even giving Tessie's young son some pebbles to throw), so no one individually takes responsibility for the murder. And that, to me, is Jackson's most compelling explanation of why this barbaric tradition manages to continue.
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Probably what made readers most upset, beyond the banal brutality itself, was the realization that humans easily inure themselves to murderous rituals and that they themselves could see something of themselves in the awful irrationality of superstition. The rest of the short stories emphasize, time and again, how so-called civilized people are murderous, irrational, petty, and generally bad toward one another on a frequent basis. Jackson has told this story in 25 different ways; this is just the most extreme, yet horrifyingly realistic, version of the story of the hellish side of human nature. Does not society today have its murderous traditions, so traditional that we do not even see their irrationality and evil? Do we not have our scapegoats and sacrifices all the same?