In "The Lottery," in what ways are the characters differentiated from one another?  

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literaturenerd | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

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The characters depicted within Shirley Jackson's "The Lottery" are differentiated from each other through their names and actions. Every character in the text is given a name, none are left unnamed. Outside of that, all of the characters brought up are spoken about very specifically regarding their behavior.

Mr. Summers is in charge of the lottery. Other characters stand off from the action of the lottery, or they only help based upon necessity, not desire. While some speak about other towns quitting the lottery, Old Man Warner speaks vehemently against it.  The central character of the story is Tessie Hutchinson. Not only is she late to the lottery, the other villagers make a big deal about it and move away from her as she goes to find her husband.

Her lateness to the lottery and the parting of the crowd foreshadows her as the winner. Not only that, she tells Mr. Summers that it would not be right for her to leave dishes in her sink. 

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sciftw | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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I would like to take a slightly different view than the previous answer.  The previous answer focused on how individuals are differentiated, but I would like to focus on how groups of characters are differentiated.  

In the beginning of the story, the narrator focuses on groups of people before focusing on individuals.  The first group is children.  The narrator says that the children are the first to show up, and the narrator says that there is no surprise to this.  

The children assembled first, of course.

The children gather together in common age groups and then break into boisterous play.  Readers are also told that the boys engage in a game where they raid opponent's rock piles.  Conversely, the young girls stand off to the side and quietly talk among themselves.  

The separation of the boys and girls is not reserved for the children either.  The next group described is the men.  They too gather together based on gender, and their talk is about farming.  

Finally, the women are described.  They arrive together.  Readers are told that they are wearing regular house clothes.  That's an important detail because it shows that the townspeople are not dressing up in their Sunday best for this lottery.  We don't know what the purpose is, but we know it isn't a fancy affair.  

Once everybody is gathered at the correct location, the differentiated groups reshuffle themselves.  The men, women, and children all gather together as individual families.  

Soon the women, standing by their husbands, began to call to their children, and the children came reluctantly, having to be called four or five times.

The family organization is an important detail, and readers will learn why once the lottery drawing is complete.  


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