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The Lottery Essay, Research Paper

“The Lottery”

Although the writer gives ample clues throughout the story, the reader finds itself so shocked at the end of the story, he feels the impact of the stone thrown right along with Tessie. To end with such a climactic feeling, the author uses several forms of literary devices; however, the two that I will explore are setting and irony.

The day itself is a day beautiful enough for a picnic. It was “clear and sunny, with the fresh warmth of a full-summer day; the flowers were blossoming profusely and the grass was richly green.” (272) The descriptions here make you think of people getting together for a celebration. The author goes on to describe the children gathering together, first quietly, then later they joined together in “boisterus play.” (272) Also casually mentioned is the “great pile of stones” (272) gathered by the boys. Later the men began to gather. They stood together, away from the pile of stones. (272) Again the pile of stones is mentioned, yet they seem to have no bearing in the story. And last come the women, in their faded housedresses and sweaters. The are described as gossiping as they would on any other day, although this is definitely not any other day. (273) The author has created a setting that portrays something exciting and something to be eagerly anticipated.

To achieve the dramatic effect intended, the author has also used irony. Irony exists in this story from the very beginning in the form of the title of the story, “The Lottery.” We usually associate the term “lottery” with something good—something we would like to win. In this story, however, the person who wins the lottery is actually the loser, that is, they are to be stoned.

Irony is also in use when Old Man Warner’s responds to talk of other villages giving up the lottery by saying, “Pack of crazy fools…Next thing you know, they’ll be wanting to go back to living in caves, nobody work anymore, live that way for a while.” (276) In his way of thinking, giving up the lottery would be barbaric and a tradition of human cruelty by stoning a person to death is considered to be civilized.

Iron is also present in the fact that the people appear to be concerned about the women having to draw. For example, when Clyde Dunbar’s wife had to draw, Mr. Summers asked, “Don’t you have a grown boy to do it for you, Janey?” (275) However, when it comes time for the stoning, they show no concern that it is a woman about to be stoned.

After it was discovered that the Hutchinson family was the winner of the first round and the family had drawn again, the two children, Nancy and Bill, Jr., opened their paper and “both beamed and laughed, turning around to the crowd and holding their slips of paper above their heads.” (278) There didn’t appear to be any sorrow that even though their papers were blank, somebody in their family was about to be stoned to death.

Using both setting and irony, Shirley Jackson creates a small rural community not unlike what many people live in today. And although she gives several hints of what the events to come, the ending is a great shock because we didn’t see any signs of violence throughout the story until the end.

Jackson, Shirley. “The Lottery.” The Bedord Guide for College Writers, with Reader, Research Manual, and Handbook. 5th ed. By X. J. Kennedy, Dorothy M. Kennedy, and Sylvia A. Holladay. Boston: Bedford, 1999.


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