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What literary elements can I compare and contrast in "The Lottery"?I have to do a...

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jowie90 | Student, College Freshman | eNotes Newbie

Posted February 14, 2010 at 12:31 AM via web

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What literary elements can I compare and contrast in "The Lottery"?

I have to do a compare and contrast essay and I think this is a good story.

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missy575 | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted February 14, 2010 at 12:45 AM (Answer #1)

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Your question is not all that clear to me, but I will take a stab at it:

  1. You could compare that society to ours. This story could be a satirical approach to any society. We do things just because we believe they will "produce a good harvest" no matter how immoral those things are. In addition, we do things because it is the ways things have always been done, even though times change. We also have certain processes and rituals to things that don't make sense. I think this comparison is your best bet. You might look up satire or allegory so you can use those literary words in a way that impresses your instructor.
  2. You could compare the different characters approach to the lottery. In great detail, Jackson describes the children, the wives, and the men. You could talk about the types of characterization, the mood as indicated by different characters' behaviors and internal conflict characters could be dealing with.

Good luck. Not sure if I took it in the direction of your assignment. Ask a follow-up if you need.

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mkcapen1 | Middle School Teacher | Valedictorian

Posted February 14, 2010 at 12:45 AM (Answer #2)

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In the story "The Lottery" the characters are acting as if the lottery will be a good thing. The title infers that they will be winning something. In most cases people enter a lottery to win a good prize.

As we read on in the story, one learns that the lottery is a bad thing. Winning means someones death by stoning. These are two elements that can be compared and contrasted; The pre and post impression of the concept of the lottery.

Another literary element is the element of irony which relates to the before and after of the lottery.

Tessie's reaction to the lottery is a literary element that also presents irony. When she believes that someone else will be chosen she is happy to be at the event and is in favor of the lottery. However, when she realizes it has been narrowed down to her own family, she suddenly does not want to be a part of it anymore.

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epollock | Valedictorian

Posted February 14, 2010 at 2:05 AM (Answer #3)

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Perhaps this story should not be pressed for its meaning or theme. Formulations such as “Society engages in ritualized slaughter,” or “Society disguises its cruelty, even from itself,” or “Even decent people seek scapegoats” do not quite seem to fit. Isn’t it possible that the story is an effective shocker, signifying nothing? As many people have pointed out, much of the effect of the story depends on the contrast between the objective narration and the horrifying subject. The story is clever, a carefully wrought thriller, but whether it is an allegory—something about the cruelty of humanity, a cruelty which is invisible to us because it is justified by tradition—is a matter that may be reasonably debated.

The date of the story is significant, June 27, close to the summer solstice, and the season for planting. Some of the names, too, are obviously significant: the ritual is presided over by Mr. Summers, the first man to draw a lot is Mr. Adams, and conservative warnings are uttered by Mr. Warner. Note, too, that the leaders of the attack on Mrs. Hutchinson are Adams (the first sinner) and Graves (the result of sin was death).

One last point about the ritual: Clyde Dunbar, at home with a broken leg, does not participate. Why? Because a sacrificial victim must be unblemished?

Names of characters and setting elements can be compared and contrasted for a fine essay.

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Lorraine Caplan | College Teacher | (Level 2) Senior Educator

Posted February 14, 2010 at 1:01 AM (Answer #4)

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This really is a good story, isn't it?  I want to clarify that it is a compare and contrast essay you are expected to write.  That means you must discuss similarities and differences.  I am wondering if you are expected to do simply a contrast, which should be easy. 

The first idea that comes to mind is a contrast between how "normal" everyone seems throughout the story and the horror of what they are doing.  There are many good details in the story to support this idea.  For example, the activities of the town are quite normal.  People cook, clean, work, and go to town events, just as they do anywhere else.  The setting of the story is quite normal, too, for a small town in America. Notice the details given in the story about the setting.  The way people behave is quite ordinary, too, up to a point!  Of course, the horror of the story is in the details, too, but they are mostly at the end. 

Good luck with your paper. 

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted February 14, 2010 at 1:04 AM (Answer #5)

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I agree that the question could undergo some refinement.  When engaging in any compare and contrast essay, there has to be two separate elements that are being analyzed.  This means that you already have a great starting point in Jackson's short story.  The next level needed is to find another entity to which you wish to compare it. If you would like to compare the society in Jackson's work to modern society, or set it against another work, these are your choices.  Yet, I think that you will need to identify another element with which to compare the story.  Once you do this, I think that you can move quite well with a compare and contrast essay, identifying particular points of similarity and specific points of divergence.

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