Tone is The Foundation for “The Lottery”
In literature, tone is often described as the attitude of the story. It is the method used by the author to add personality or emotion. Without tone, even the best-rounded characters can easily come across as flat. Tone is not simply style, diction, or setting, but instead is the tool that holds all of these pieces together. In, “The Lottery”, author Shirley Jackson’s use of tone not only leads the reader down a familiar easy path to follow, but also sets the stage for the climactic change in events that leaves the reader’s emotions spiraling out of control.
The ability to take a reader by the hand and walk them through a comfortably recognizable setting only to leave them asking in the end, “What just happened?”, is often referred to as simply a plot twist, but without the proper tone having been set beforehand, this twist would fall short of the desired effect. In “The Lottery”, the tone used to describe the initial setting, the townspeople’s attitude toward the lottery, and then the description of the stark realization that someone is going to die, provides evidence of tone’s ability to not only disarm the reader, but allow the author to extract the desired emotional response.
Jackson’s attempt to lull the reader into comfortable familiar surroundings is evidenced from the very beginning. Using, “The morning of June 27 was clear and sunny, with the fresh warmth of a full-summer day; the flowers were blossoming profusely and the grass was richly green” (250) as her opening sentence, Jackson leads one to reminisce of pleasant summers past. Although she does immediately follow this statement with the first mention of the lottery, before the reader is given the time to actually process its meaning, she immediately disarms the situation and makes light of its consequences by explaining that the whole lottery should take less than two hours and everybody can be home by noon dinner. In fact, “The reader quickly learns that the villagers regard the lottery as just another everyday matter to be dealt with, the same as any other chore” (Timko).
Jackson continues to cradle the reader into the comfort of a nonthreatening situation as she describes the scene unfolding in the village square,
The children assembled first, of course. School was recently over for the summer, and the feeling of liberty set easily on most of them; they tended to gather together quietly for a while before they broke into boisterous play…Dickey…made a great pile of stones… and the very small children rolled in the dust or clung to the hands of their older brothers and sisters (251).
This image of children carelessly playing unsupervised provides the reader with a false sense of safe secure well-being. Even when the men do...