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“The Lottery” by Jackson

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“The Lottery” by Jackson, is a short story which talks about a tradition which comes up once a year in a little village of about 300 natives. In the lottery process, one person is selected randomly and heinously stoned to death. Tessie Hutchinson is the victim of this social disturbing practice and she protest against the culture before she is been sentenced by Mr. Summers the lottery coordinator. In the story, the readers first get a gloomy picture of a summer day but, Jackson uses this setting to suggest an ironic ending of a senseless murder. Firstly, Jackson portrays a setting in which she tells the reader what time of day and what time of year the event takes place. This is important to get the reader to focus on what a typical day it is in this small town. The time of day is set in the morning and the time of year is early summer.

Jennifer Hicks a critic of the story describes the opening scene saying school just ended and the children were recently let out for summer break, making the reader assume that the time of year is early summer (148). Jackson then goes further to portray a picture of the town in the reader’s mind as a small community with a rural setting, describing the grass as “richly green” and “the flowers were blooming profusely” (133). With all these, the readers have a peaceful felling about the town setting which makes them feel nothing major can go wrong in this attractive town. Danielle Schaub in her publication “Shirley Jackson’s Use of Symbols in ‘The Lottery”, affirms that upon reading the first paragraph, Shirley Jackson describes the town in general. The town is first mentioned in the opening paragraph where she sets the location in the town square (7). The author puts in angle the location where the town square is located “between the post office and the bank” (133).

This visualizes for the reader what a small town this is, since everything seems to be centralized at or near the town square. This is also important in that the town square is the scene for the remaining part of the story. Moreover, Shirley Jackson creates a comfortable atmosphere while describing the residents of the town. First, she describes the children gathering together and breaking into “boisterous play”(133). Also, the children are described as gathering rocks, which is an action of many normal children. She described the men as gathering together and talking about “planting and rain, tractors and taxes”(133). Finally, she describes the women of this community as “exchanging bits of gossip”(133) “which is a common stereotype of women”. (Schaub 10) Up to this point in the story, the author has not pointed out anything out of the ordinary which would reflect an ironic ending.

After reading deep in the story, Shirley Jackson uses his manipulative skills give the reader hints about the unusualness of this village. First, she sets the time of day to be mid-morning, which gives a clue to an ironic ending “since most occurrences of criminal activity happen during the night” (Hicks 134). Second, she also points out key buildings that surround the town square. According to Fritz Oehlschlaeger a critic, “the author fails to describe a church or a courthouse which are common buildings to all communities.” (150) In addition, she points out the fact that the children are building “a great pile of stones in one corner of the square”(196) which may tell the reader something is not right about this town. He uses this line to manipulate the readers minds as it could have two meanings on being it is something normal children do and the other being its abnormal for children to gather stones on a beautiful day without any reason.

According to Oehlschlaeger, the introduction of the black box is a key turning point for the setting “the black box symbolizes an act of decadent to the villagers” (151). This is evident in the fact that “the villagers kept their distance”(Jackson 134) from the black box when it was brought in by Mr. Summer, and nobody wanted to give him help setting it up “ there was a hesitation before two men Mr. Martin and his oldest son Baxter, came forward to hold the box steady” (Jackson 134). Oehlschlaeger goes further to say the introduction of the black box into the setting changes the mood and the atmosphere of the residents, “After the introduction of the black box the villagers become uneasy around this symbol of evil” (151). Furthermore, when the black box is brought in it changes the atmosphere from a peaceful to a threaten one. Looking further at the story, its setting shows this is a society where women are being victimized and no regard is shown for their rights.

This is evident when Mr. Summers has to question a lady why she had to draw for her family “Don’t you have a grown boy to do it for you, Janey?” (134). With this, it is evident women are treated badly in this society and it may ring a bell in the readers mind if some sort of manipulation was made in order for a woman to be chosen as the lottery victim. Schaub relates to this as she points out the fact of Tessi Hutchinson; being asked to keep quit when she tried to protest “shut up Tessi, Bill Hutchinson said” (137). “Tessie appears to protest but she is gently scolded so that little consideration is paid to her inexplicable protests.” (Schaub 8) Again, the author uses irony to portray some important facts about this little community. The Old Man Warner says the lottery tradition is to be kept because it prevents the community from going back to the caves, which symbolizes “a barbaric state” according to Oehlschlaeger (152).

But looking at the lottery process itself, it is a barbaric act, as there is no reason for stoning the woman to death. According to Schaub, Jackson manipulates the readers mind to think of the story as some sort of fairy tale (8) “the reader’s attention is skillfully distracted” (7). The story becomes more ironical as when Tessi comes to the village square, she is portrayed to be liked especially by Mrs. Delacroix but she had the biggest stone when it was time for Tessi to be murdered “Mrs. Delacroix selected a stone so large she had to pick it up with both hands”.

Schaub sees this society as one which looks as its tradition as exciting and there is “No reason then for tradition to be questioned or to be given up” (8) According to Schaub, the story ends ironically opposed to the setting established by Shirley Jackson at the start of the story. (10) He concludes the story with the villagers ending up to murder a woman because of “tradition” which could be given up and will have no effect on them since other villages had given it up and still lived their normal lives. The mood Jackson creates when concluding the sorry if one of brutality, pain, and disregard for human life as opposed to the gloomy and peaceful community he portrays at the start of the story. This portrays the author’s good use of irony throughout the story.

Works Cited
Shirley Jackson. “The Lottery”. Literature and the Writing Process. Ed. Elizabeth McMahan, Boston: 2014. 133- 138. Print Schaub, Danielle. “Shirley Jackson’s Use of Symbols in ‘The Lottery.’.” Journal of the Short Story in English 14 (Spring 1990): 79-86. Rpt. inTwentieth-Century Literary Criticism. Ed. Thomas J. Schoenberg and Lawrence J. Trudeau. Vol. 187.
Detroit: Gale, 2007. Literature Resource Center. Web. 29 July 2013. “The Lottery.” Short Stories for Students. Ed. Kathleen Wilson. Vol. 1. Detroit: Gale, 1997. 139-154. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Web. 29 July 2013.

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