The Lottery, By Shirley Jackson Essay

1551 words - 6 pages

Shirley Jackson’s “The Lottery” is a story littered with warnings and subtext about the dangers a submissive society can pose. While the opening is deceptively cheery and light Jackson uses an array of symbols and ominous syntax to help create the apprehensive and grim tone the story ends with. Her portrayal of the town folk as blindly following tradition represents the world during World War II when people’s failure to not mindlessly accept and heed authority lead to disastrous consequences. . Shirley Jackson uses a large array of techniques to help convey the idea that recklessly following and accepting traditions and orders can lead to disastrous consequences.
The opening paragraphs of the story contain a light and carefree tone with phrases such as, “The morning… was clear and sunny, with the fresh warmth of a full-summer day” (1) and “the children assembled first…they broke into boisterous play” (1). Jackson does not lead the reader to think that the anything sinister is going to occur. However once the narration moves from the children to the adults the first hint of something other than lighthearted small town excitement is perceived; “The men… stood together…their jokes were quiet, and they smiled rather than laughed” (2). The story proceeds to give some backstory on the lottery unless Mr. Summers gets ready to begin and “A sudden hush fell on the crowd” (3), at the point the reader is more than a little dubious that the lottery is something one wants to win. As Mr. Summers begins the crowd is described as “quiet”, “not looking around”, and “grave”, the subtle change in tone as the names continue to be drawn creates a mounting sense of apprehension until Mr. Summers calls the last time and there is “a long pause, a breathless pause,” (4).
It is immediately made known by Tessie Hutchinson’s extreme reaction to her husband winning and there is something grim about this lottery. As Tessie’s protests continue and the Hutchinson family prepares to draw again the sense of apprehension is one again mounting, this time fearing for whoever wins yet still not knowing what their “prize” will be. “The crowd was quiet. A girl whispered, ‘I hope it’s not Nancy’”, the silence and fear of the crowds manifests in the reader as the three children and their parents all draw slips of paper. Tessie “wins” the lottery and when the narrator explains “although the villagers had forgotten the ritual, and lost they original black box, they still remembered to use stones” (6) its suddenly shockingly clear to the readers what the winner is to receive. The drastic switch from a light and cheerful tone with talk of the beautiful day and children playing to the closing like of “and they were upon her” (7) is in part why this story is so effective. The unforeseen sinister end of the story makes the revelation of the tradition much more shocking and unsettling than had the reader known from the beginning what the outcome would be. Jackson very...

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