If I compare and contrast the plot development in Faulkner's "A Rose for Emily" & Shirley Jackson's "The Lottery," what key factor would I use?

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booboosmoosh eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The plot development for each story is key to the surprise the reader experiences at each story's end. However, the process for plot development used by each author is very different.

In Faulkner's "A Rose for Emily," the author is able to surprise the reader because of his use of a disrupted chronology of events. For example, when the story begins, the unnamed narrator begins the story almost at the end, and ends the story with the final action. But in between these two points, he moves around seemingly without rhyme or reason in relaying specific segments of Emily's life.

When Miss Emily Grierson died, our whole town went to her funeral...

Then the narrator jumps to the time when the aldermen had gone to her home to collect back taxes. She smoothly defies and defeats them. The narrator effortlessly segues into how Emily had defeated their fathers thirty years prior when an awful smell was emanating from her house. The men refuse to approach her face-to-face, so they go about spreading lime around the foundation of the house under the cover of darkness. The reader is eased into information of her father's death and Emily's inclination to mental illness. 

As part three begins, the time has shifted again, backward, to when workmen were in the town to put in paved sidewalks. A relationship develops between the Yankee Homer Barron (the foreman) and Miss Emily. Without her father's interference, she does as she pleases. She rides out in public with him. She purchases poison from the druggist. 

The town is appalled by Miss Emily's behavior with Barron—he is not of her class, and he's a Northerner. Then he is gone and they think the relationship is over. He returns one last time, for the last time. Emily becomes reclusive. Many years later, she dies in her bed. After the funeral, the men go about opening up the house and find Barron's corpse, and evidence that Emily had slept next to him—recently—though many years have passed since his death. 

The story is told by the narrator through a series of non-sequential flashbacks.

It is noted that the story's first line is actually also a flashback—a memory shared before the body is found in the house.

In Jackson's "The Lottery," the plot development does not use flashback, but foreshadowing. The hints regarding the story's conclusion come through the use of symbolic references: they are abundant. Again, the story's conclusion is not outwardly indicated, but hinted at through clues that one might miss reading it through for the first time.

Some of the most noticeable symbolism comes with the use of names. Mr. Graves' name can be associated with death or "tragedy." 

Delacroix, which in French means "of the cross," suggests sacrifice because of its reference to Jesus Christ's death on the cross.

Certainly the death that occurs at the end of the story is very much a ritualistic sacrifice. Other elements of foreshadowing are "left lying about:"

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

The black box also foreshadows danger. People keep their distance. The black spot on the paper also foreshadows death:

In [Stevenson's Treasure Island], pirates are presented with a "black spot" to officially pronounce a verdict of guilt or judgment.

Another important aspect of the story is the description of everyday activities, the beautiful weather, etc.: setting a mood counter to the shock and horror of the tale's ending.

Read the study guide:
The Lottery

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