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Had Jackson chosen sophisticated (such as Poe's Montesor) rather than common people...

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reniag | Honors

Posted October 21, 2010 at 2:03 PM via web

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Had Jackson chosen sophisticated (such as Poe's Montesor) rather than common people for characters would the story have the same effect?

Shirley Jackson's "The Lottery" 

The Cask of Amontillado.

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epollock | Valedictorian

Posted October 21, 2010 at 3:23 PM (Answer #1)

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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 unhurt.

The common and everyday names shows how ordinary, how routine, the event was, crazy as it was. People have accepted it, and flat, simple names are the medium in which they think and talk. The reader cannot regard this story with the same objective, producing an ironic discrepancy between the reader’s feelings and thoughts and the villagers’.This irony may produce exasperation in the reader and push him or her into Jackson’s revulsion at these events.

Montressor is the same way. His name in Latin means, "I will impune anyone who provokes me, and does. His character name is sued with a simple matter of factness, just as in "The Lottery."

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted October 21, 2010 at 4:33 PM (Answer #2)

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Clearly, the shocking effect of the ending of Shirley Jackson's "The Lottery" would not be produced if the characters were of the sophisticated deviousness of Poe's Montresor from "The Cask of Amontillado."  In Poe's story, Montresor announces his criminal intent and it is only the plan that the reader does not realize until the narrative's end.  However, in Jackson's story, the reader is totally disarmed by the bucolic setting, Old Man Warner who has been around for so many lotteries that must be a harmless activity, Mrs. Delacroix who greets Mrs. Tessie Hutchinson in such a neighborly manner, the children playfully gathering stones.

That the lottery is tradition seems to lend it respectibility and legitimacy.  The words of Old Man Warner--"There's always been a lottery,"  "Lottery in June, corn be heavy soon" reinforce this idea; therefore, when readers discovers the horrific implications of this the town's ritual, they are not only shocked, but uncomfortably reminded that the predilection for violence is in all humanity.

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