What is an allusion in "The Lottery"?      

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

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It is very important to understand what an allusion is prior to finding evidence of one in a text. According to the eNotes site's Guide to Literary Terms, allusion is

a reference, usually brief, often casual, occasionally indirect, to a person , event, or condition thought to be familiar (but sometimes actually obscure or unknown) to the reader.

Shirley Jackson, in her short story "The Lottery," she makes one very prominent allusion through dialogue provided by Old Man Warner:

Used to be a saying about 'Lottery in June, corn be heavy soon.'

Here, Jackson is alluding to the fact that human sacrifices have been made throughout history to insure good yields at harvest. While some readers may not pick up on this (given the allusions are "sometimes actually obscure or unknown"), the fact remains that human sacrifices have been performed in the past for crops.

This allusion also provides additional foreshadowing. Other foreshadowing from the text comes from the second paragraph of the story:

Bobby Martin had already stuffed his pockets full of stones, and the other boys soon followed his example, selecting the smoothest and roundest stones.

While an allusion is not made here, the clues are evident when used in connection with Old Man Warner's statement.

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rmhope | College Teacher | (Level 3) Educator

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In Shirley Jackson's short story "The Lottery," the most obvious place to look for allusions is in the names of the characters. Jackson seems to choose names of characters deliberately: Mr. Summers presides over the ceremony with a sunny disposition, and Mr. Graves assists in the deadly ritual. The other names that don't have overt meanings in the English language may have historical significance. Two names that may allude to famous people in history are Mrs. Hutchinson and the Delacroix family. 

The name Delacroix brings to mind the Romantic painter Eugene Delacroix. He was the leader of the French Romantic school of painting. One of his most famous works is "Liberty Leading the People." While the painting champions the people's revolution under the flag symbolizing liberty, fraternity, and equality, it certainly romanticizes the carnage as dead bodies are strewn about at Lady Liberty's feet. A connection one might draw with the story is that the townspeople have romanticized their meaningless ritual of annual stoning without stopping to lament the real people who die for no reason on behalf of their "cause," which no one even understands anymore. The Delacroix boy is among the first to stockpile stones, and Mrs. Delacroix is among those eager to cast the first stone at Mrs. Hutchinson, thus they represent mob action without concern for the consequences. 

Mrs. Hutchinson is the only one in the story who seems willing to rebel against the ritual, especially after her family "wins" the lottery. Anne Hutchinson was a woman who lived in New England in the early seventeenth century. She stood against the blind ritualistic religion practiced by her Puritan church and advocated for a more heartfelt and spiritual Christianity. She ended up being excommunicated by the Church of Boston. It seems likely that Jackson means to pay homage to Anne Hutchinson by naming the brave and ill-fated Tessie Hutchinson after her.


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