Find as many things as you can that the following extracts from "The Lottery" by Shirley Jackson and "The School" by Donald Barthelme have in common.




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.

Expert Answers

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I'll start by saying that both of these short stories are incredibly dark short stories. They do not give the reader a happy and energetic outlook on life and society. I am going to assume that the numbered quotes have to compared to each other. "1" needs to be compared to "1," and not to "2" or "3."

In both of the first sections, there is concrete narration about plants. "The Lottery" mentions flowers, and "The School" mentions trees for a class project. That might be too simplistic a comparison for this particular writing prompt, so I recommend looking at the mood and/or atmosphere being given to readers in each of those sequences. I would say that the general feeling being given is a fairly happy and fun feeling. In "The Lottery," readers are being told about some kind of all-town get-together that lasts a reasonable amount of time and allows people to get back home. The opening line sounds beautiful. I want to be there.

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 School" opening sequence might not appear as bright and cheery with as much as it focuses on the death of the trees; however, I am quite certain most readers have been a part of a failed classroom project or science experiment. It is disappointing at the time, but the event is usually remembered fondly with a chuckle or two. This sequence evokes that kind of memory from readers.

Regarding section 2, I think the main commonality is that those 2 extracts represent a very sudden, and very serious shift in the overall tone of the story. There's only 5 paragraphs that follow this extract from "The Lottery," and those 5 paragraphs no longer attempt to hide what is going to happen to the lottery "winner." Up until this point, the reader doesn't exactly know that the lottery is a horrific form of societal murder. We suspect that it's not as positive of a thing as we thought earlier, but this extract is the moment when all hope disappears from the text. The events that follow are practically too surreal to even believe. Extract #2 from "The School" is that same sort of shift into the surreal. It's a real disappointment that this narrating teacher is having such "bad luck" with the number of deaths that are happening to people and things that have some kind of connection to his class of children; however, this extract moves the story from bad luck coincidence to a much darker and depressing philosophical discussion on death, life, and love. The extract is focused on the kids asking about death, and that makes complete sense based on the number of deaths experienced so far; however, the story turns at this point toward the surreal when the kids ask their teacher to make love in front of them with the assistant teacher. With so much death, the kids want some kind of balance. To them, love and "making love" might be that balance. They don't know what they are asking for, but it's still an unbelievably surreal moment in the story. I can't imagine a group of kids asking that of a teacher.

The third extracts are similar in that they both have a small focus on fear. Tessie is terrified, and it's for a good reason. She's about to be stoned to death. The children in "The School" are also afraid for good reason. They have seen a lot of death that year. The other similarity that I see between those two extracts is the excitement of the children. "The School" has the children cheering excitedly for a new life that has entered their classroom—a new gerbil. "The Lottery" has the children ready with stones in hand. They are not standing on the peripheral or shyly going to the stoning spot. They are there already with stones in hand. They can't wait to get started.

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