Shirley Jackson was extremely particular with the names she chose for the characters in her short story “The Lottery.” Several objectives were accomplished by her careful selection of names. The use of names such as Summers and Graves indicate the setting of the story, as well as give early incite to the outcome. Evidence of anti-feminism originates early in the text of the story, but anti-feminism is not only found in the text. The only females that are allowed to have first names are Tessie Hutchinson, who does not conform to the woman’s role in the community, and Janey Dunbar, which is taking on a male’s role in the lottery. Tessie’s daughters are given first names in her desperate attempt to increase her odds for survival. It is not just the characters themselves who give significance to the story, but their names also provide much assistance to the makings of this story.
Joe Summers being the official of the lottery is the key player for organizing and carrying out the traditions of the lottery. The name that Jackson gave to the official assists in bringing clarity to the time of year in which the lottery takes place. Jay Yarmove suggests that Mr. Summer’s attire of “clean white shirt and blue jeans” was used by Jackson to signify that the era was set in the twentieth century (242). Summers’ character was also used to bring to light the sexism felt towards women in the community with his comments to Mrs. Dunbar, “Wife draws for her husband… don’t you have a grown boy to do it for you, Janey?” (Arp and Johnson 281).
Jackson places multiple hidden messages throughout her story. One in particular is the name of the quiet assistant to the official Mr. Summers: Harry Graves. Graves is another prominent male figure in the village. Like Summers, Graves’ name is chosen carefully, and is used to give an early warning to the gloomy outcome of the story. Here are a few examples of Mr. Graves’s support: “The Postmaster followed carrying a three-legged stool…” (279), “the night before the lottery, Mr. Summers and Mr. Graves made up the slips of paper…” (279), and “Mr. Graves had selected the five slips and put them in the box…” (284). By Mr. Graves’ frequent involvement in the lottery, emphasizes that nothing good is to come from it. (Arp and Johnson 281).
I believe Jackson is very selective with who is given a first name. All of the prominent male characters are given first names. The other less significant males, like Mr. Adams, receive first names to emphasize that this is a man’s world. Steve Adams does not hold a significant role in the story; however his name brings forth further proof to the concealed sexism in the story. Jay Yarmove points out in his writing that the translation for “Adam” in Hebrew is “man” (243). Also, Adam came before Eve. I believe Jackson uses Adams to symbolize that in this village men come before women.
Further proof that this is a man’s world is Jack Watson. Like Mr. Adams, Watson is not...