What is the plot of "The Lottery"?

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jgareis's profile pic

jgareis | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Adjunct Educator

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Plot refers to what happens in any given story—the events that make up the story. Shirley Jackson's short story "The Lottery" tells of a small town that gathers yearly to take part in a lottery. As the story progresses the reader realizes that this particular lottery is not one you might hope to win. The town has upheld an ancient tradition of human sacrifice related to the harvest and the lottery will determine who amongst the town's members will be stoned to death that year. While many secondary characters are introduced, Mrs. Hutchinson is the focus of the story. It is she that will be sacrificed for the town that year. As you, the reader, become aware of the true purpose of the lottery, Mrs. Hutchinson becomes aware of the role she will play. Prior to being the year's chosen one, Mrs. Hutchinson was just as certain of the lottery's necessity as the other members of the town. Once it is revealed that she is the sacrifice, she tries, unsuccessfully, to make the town cease the tradition. 

junebug614's profile pic

junebug614 | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Assistant Educator

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The plot, or conflict, in this story is the struggle between participating in an action because it is actually necessary OR because it is simply tradition, focusing mainly on Mrs. Hutchinson.  In the story, the people of the town participate yearly in a lottery; as the reader, one would assume that winning the lottery would be pleasurable and possibly yield money or prizes.  However, as the story progresses, the tone changes drastically and we see that "winning" the lottery is not a good thing at all.  Mrs. Hutchinson willingly participated in the lottery and was going to accept its results—until she was the one chosen. It's not until she is about to be stoned to death that she realizes the tradition is a futile one.  

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Lorraine Caplan | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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The story of "The Lottery" takes place on one day, the day of the lottery, a beautiful summer day in June, in what appears to be a charming and peaceful village.  The story opens as town officials and villagers gather for the lottery and ends as the "winner" of the lottery, Tessie Hutchinson, is stoned to death by the villagers.  All that happens in between those events is about the lottery, its possible origins, its traditions, the idea (quickly dismissed) of doing away with the lottery, and the protests of the "winner," who, now that she is about to die, has concerns about the fairness of the procedure. The richness of the story lies in the deceptive simplicity of this plot, which allows it to symbolize the horror of blind conformity and unexamined tradition.

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