Find as many things as you can that the extracts have in common (literary devices, themes, mood, etc.). Compare extract 1 from "The School" with extract 1 from "The Lottery," and so on.


1 - "The Lottery"

The morning of June 27th was clear and sunny, with the fresh warmth of a full-summer day; the flowers were blossoming profusely and the grass was richly green. The people of the village began to gather in the square, between the post office and the bank, around ten o'clock; in some towns there were so many people that the lottery took two days and had to be started on June 27th. But in this village, where there were only about three hundred people, the whole lottery took less than two hours, so it could begin at ten o'clock in the morning and still be through in time to allow the villagers to get home for noon dinner.

1 - "The School"

Well, we had all these children out planting trees, see, because we figured that . . . that was part of their education, to see how, you know, the root systems . . . and also the sense of responsibility, taking care of things, being individually responsible. You know what I mean. And the trees all died. They were orange trees. I don’t know why they died, they just died. Something wrong with the soil possibly or maybe the stuff we got from the nursery wasn’t the best. We complained about it. So we’ve got thirty kids there, each kid had his or her own little tree to plant and we’ve got these thirty dead trees. All these kids looking at these little brown sticks, it was depressing.

2 - "The Lottery"

"Tessie," Mr. Summers said. There was a pause, and then Mr. Summers looked at Bill Hutchinson, and Bill unfolded his paper and showed it. It was blank.

"It's Tessie," Mr. Summers said, and his voice was hushed. "Show us her paper. Bill."

Bill Hutchinson went over to his wife and forced the slip of paper out of her hand. It had a black spot on it, the black spot Mr. Summers had made the night before with the heavy pencil in the coal company office. Bill Hutchinson held it up, and there was a stir in the crowd.

"All right, folks." Mr. Summers said. "Let's finish quickly."

2 - "The School"

One day, we had a discussion in class. They asked me, where did they go? The trees, the salamander, the tropical fish, Edgar, the poppas and mommas, Matthew and Tony, where did they go? And I said, I don’t know, I don’t know. And they said, who knows? and I said, nobody knows. And they said, is death that which gives meaning to life? And I said no, life is that which gives meaning to life. Then they said, but isn’t death, considered as a fundamental datum, the means by which the taken-for-granted mundanity of the everyday may be transcended in the direction of—

3 - "The Lottery"

The children had stones already. And someone gave little Davy Hutchinson few pebbles.

Tessie Hutchinson was in the center of a cleared space by now, and she held her hands out desperately as the villagers moved in on her. "It isn't fair," she said. A stone hit her on the side of the head. Old Man Warner was saying, "Come on, come on, everyone." Steve Adams was in the front of the crowd of villagers, with Mrs. Graves beside him.

"It isn't fair, it isn't right," Mrs. Hutchinson screamed, and then they were upon her.

3 - "The School"

I said that they shouldn’t be frightened (although I am often frightened) and that there was value everywhere. Helen came and embraced me. I kissed her a few times on the brow. We held each other. The children were excited. Then there was a knock on the door, I opened the door, and the new gerbil walked in. The children cheered wildly.

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Both of the first extracts seem to be establishing the setting of each story. In the paragraph from "The Lottery," we learn that the story takes place in a small village of only about three hundred people and that it is something of a special day in the community. When we hear the word "lottery," we might automatically assume that winning it would be a very good and welcome thing; however, this seems to be different from the kind of lottery we are used to: it takes two days, apparently, in larger towns, and at least two hours in this one (so we learn that this is not a draw-one-ticket-to-find-out-the-winner kind of a lottery; it is unusual, unfamiliar to us). In the extract from "The School," we learn that the story takes place at a school for young children, beginning on what is likewise an auspicious day: a day when the students are to plant their own orange trees as part of a class project. However, it is also a bit odd, as well, because somehow all thirty trees have died.

Further, these strange details—a lottery taking two hours and thirty trees dying all at once—help to set the mood. Both stories seem to possess oddities right off the bat, and this might make us feel a little wary or uncertain, perhaps a little nervous. We do not quite know what to expect: what kind of lottery is this? And how could all of the trees die like that?

Both of the second extracts seem to present a climactic moment from their stories. In "The Lottery," we learn that whoever "wins" this lottery does not actually win something good at all: this presents an example of irony, because reality differs from what we were expecting. Now, Mr. Summers's "voice was hushed," and the paper must be "forced . . . out of [Tessie Hutchinson’s] hand." A feeling of dread is conveyed by the big "black spot" made in "heavy pencil," and we know that whatever Tessie has been chosen for is not a pleasant thing; Mr. Summers just wants to "finish quickly," as though to get whatever it is over with.

In the second extract from "The School," the children are asking the narrator, a teacher, about the nature of death. While we might expect children to ask questions about death, we would certainly not expect the very young to be asking, "Is death that which gives meaning to life?" or "Isn’t death, considered as a fundamental datum, the means by which the taken-for-granted mundanity of the everyday may be transcended. . . ?" These are incredibly advanced questions, posed with vocabulary not possessed by typical children (even, perhaps, by typical adults). These ironies, then, continue to develop the stories’ moods, which have now become somewhat more menacing and/or frightening.

Each of the third excerpts presents their story's conclusion. In "The Lottery," we learn what Tessie has "won": death by stoning. In "The School," the children have asked their teacher not just about death, but sex—an act that is, essentially, the beginning of life. The children have witnessed so much death, the end of life, that now they seem interested in how life is created, or begun: an equally, if not more awkward, subject for adults to address with them, because adults often wish to preserve what they see as children's innocence (not realizing that children often know much more than adults expect them to). Our suspicion about these children, that they are quite strange and not at all innocent, is verified by the explicit and specific nature of their curiosity. In "The Lottery," even Tessie’s young son is encouraged to participate in the violent death of his mother. Both conclusions address the idea of childhood innocence: in "The School," it exists only as a fantasy maintained by adults, and in "The Lottery," it is ruined by adults.

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