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Foreshadowing In Shirley Jackson's The Lottery

1156 words - 5 pages

Foreshadowing in Shirley Jackson's The Lottery

 
    "The Lottery," a short story written by Shirley Jackson, is a tale about a disturbing social practice.  The setting takes place in a small village consisting of about three hundred denizens.  On June twenty-seventh of every year, the members of this traditional community hold a village-wide lottery in which everyone is expected to participate.  Throughout the story, the reader gets an odd feeling regarding the residents and their annual practice.  Not until the end does he or she gets to know what the lottery is about.  Thus, from the beginning of the story until almost the end, there is an overwhelming sense that something terrible is about to happen due to the Jackson's effective use of foreshadowing through the depiction of characters and setting.  Effective foreshadowing builds anticipation for the climax and ultimately the main theme of the story - the pointless nature of humanity regarding tradition and cruelty.

            The first hint that insinuates the abnormality of this lottery is seen in the second paragraph of the story.  The narrator describes the day as very lovely, but strikes a contrast between the pleasant atmosphere of the town and the activity of the people that are gathering in the square.  "Bobby Martin had already stuffed his pockets full of stones, and the other boys soon followed his example...eventually made a great pile of stones in one corner of the square and guarded it against the raids of the other boys" (p.422).  Through this mysterious act, one has to wonder why the boys are doing this, deliberately?  It only shows that the stones will play a role in the imminent future.

            As the story goes on, each the following paragraphs contains subtle clues as to what is going to unfold.  After all of the children have gathered around, the men began to fill the square, followed by the women.  "They stood together, away from the pile of stones in the corner" (p.422).  The fact that they stood away from the stones, again, informs the reader that the stones will play a significant role.  Nervousness amongst the people is manifested due to the children's reluctance to join their parents in the square.  At this particular moment, there is a feeling that this lottery is not going to have a pleasant outcome.

            Furthermore, this lottery does not arouse the optimistic personalities that lotteries are known for, but rather conveys the apprehensive side of everyone in town and how serious it is to them.  When Mr. Summers cites, "Well now...guess we better get started, get this over with, so we can get back to work," it sounds like this drawing is not going to be as long and as serious, according to his light tone (p.424).  But in response to Mr. Summers, Old Man Warner says, "Bad enough to see young Joe Summers up there joking with everybody" (p.425).  This indicates that this drawing will be no "laughing matter."  It is obviously going to make...

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