”The Lottery” by Shirley Jackson
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Many traditions passed down through generations have little to no significance in society, most traditions are passed down overtime because certain individuals are afraid of the consequences. In a small village, there is a yearly tradition that randomly selects one individual to be stoned by the entire village. This tradition is known as “The Lottery.” In “The Lottery,” Shirley Jackson combines foreshadowing with a comforting tone thus both concealing and revealing the shocking ending.
Shirley Jackson’s use of a benevolent tone leaves readers unsuspecting of the ironic ending. As the story begins, the setting is described as “clear,” “warm,” and “sunny.” This entrance immediately creates the relaxing imagery of a beautiful day. As the villagers gather, the children began to “play.” Their playfulness show they have no inhibitions or worries. The Lottery is organized like the “square dances,” “teen club,” and “the Halloween program” as one of the “civic activities.” The Lottery is presented as a civic activity for the benefit of the people. It is also called a lottery, where lotteries are generally associated with good luck and fortune. Readers can assume “The Lottery” is also a sign of good luck and fortune. Jackson’s placement of details sets a positive tone for the story along with a mixture of foreshadowing.
Jackson foreshadows the surprising ending. As more families are gathering the men’s “Jokes were quiet and they smiled rather than laughed.” Their actions reflect that something is on all of their minds, making them uncomfortable. As Mr. Summers begins to set up the box and stool, he asks for help, there was “hesitation.” This makes the reader question, why would anyone hesitate to help? As Mr. Adams and old man Warner converse, Mr. Adams says that in the “north village” they are deciding if they should get rid of “the Lottery. For what reason would they want to give up a tradition that has been continued for many years. The lottery must be in some way unfavorable if the other village considers giving it up. The actions and conversations of villagers begin to show the true nature of the lottery.
Through the combination of foreshadowing and setting a comforting tone, Shirley Jackson reveals but also conceals the surprising ending. To conceal, Jackson describes settings and uses the idea of a lottery to set a positive tone of the story. But she also places hints like the behavior of the villagers, to foreshadow the true nature of the lottery. Her use of these literary techniques, make the reader wonder and better enjoy the story.