“The Lottery”





Literature 115


Essay # 1


The story entitled "The Lottery," written by Shirley Jackson is an intriguing and shocking parable. "The Lottery" is set in a small village on a clear summer day. Written in objective third person point of view, "The Lottery" keeps the reader in suspense as the story progresses. This story shows the cruelty of people and their justification through tradition.


The story begins morning of June 27. From the very beginning, irony occurs in the story. The author describes the day as "clear and sunny, with the fresh warmth of a full-summer day; the flowers were blossoming profusely and the grass was richly green." (255) To describe such a beautiful day when the ending is so ill fated is very ironic. The villagers, all three hundred of them, gather in the square. There is a feeling of excitement and relative normalcy as the people talk of their everyday happenings. The lottery is conducted by Mr. Summers, as he is the one that directs the "civic activities" of the town. The night before the lottery, all of the families have their names placed in a black box. The day of the lottery, Mr. Summers has each head of family draw a slip of paper from the box. When each family has selected a slip, they all open the papers together. The Hutchinson\'s are the "winners." The process then repeats but this time, each family member must put his or her name in the black box. This is where the climax occurs. Everyone waits expectantly for the outcome to the lottery. As each slip is opened, the suspense builds and the villagers wait expectantly for the black spot that would signify the "winner." At the conclusion of the story, Mrs. Hutchinson is the "winner," and as her prize, the citizens of the village stone her to death. The conclusion to "The Lottery" is another irony. Mrs. Hutchinson was the last to arrive at the square because she had forgotten what day it was. It is satirical that she, the "winner," almost did not make it to the lottery. Another example of irony at this time is when "voices across the crowd said, \'Bill she made it after all," (257) when in the end, she did not "make it." A bit of foreshadowing also occurs between the climax and ending. When Mrs. Hutchinson arrives late, she makes her way through the crowd and "She tapped Mrs. Delacroix on the arm as a farewell" (257)


The main characters in "The Lottery" are the villagers. They are flat and stagnant in characterization in that throughout the story the villagers remain relatively nonchalant and usual. Another relevant character in this story is Tessie Hutchinson. She, in the end, is round in her characterization. When she becomes the chosen one, she finally realizes how wrong the lottery is.


"The Lottery" has many obvious themes and symbols as well as some that are not so easily observable. One of the main themes to this story is tradition. In relation to the theme, Old Man Warner is a symbol of tradition. Throughout the story, he laments on the dwindling traditional values of the new generation. This is evident in his statement about them when he says, "Pack of crazy fools Listening to the young folks, nothing\'s good enough for them," (258) indicating that he thinks the lottery is a good idea simply because it is tradition. He lasted through seventy-seven lotteries in which tradition was upheld with supposed pomp and circumstance. He could not understand the younger generation\'s lack of traditionalism. This brings up the next theme, which is people hate change because human nature is constant. "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," (255) this statement clearly shows the villagers\' dislike for change. Even though "the black box grew shabbier each year," (256) the people resolutely held to custom. This also shows that though the lottery may be an iniquitous act, it is upheld by tradition and the peoples\' reluctance to any divergence in their customary lives. Relating to this accustomed lifestyle, there is also a sexist