Could you please describe the narrator(s) in "The Lottery" and its/their attitude towards the story being told?

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pmiranda2857 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The narration in this story is third person, meaning that the narrator is not a character in the story, but someone outside of the story telling the story.  The narration is very matter of fact, describing the events in this story without alarming the reader or hinting what the lottery is really all about.

"Told from a third-person point of view, the narrator is not a participant in the story. The objective tone of the narrative, meaning the story is told without excessive emotionalism or description, helps to impart the ordinariness of the barbaric act."

The events in the story are described as ordinary, common, every day events.

"The children assembled first, of course. School was recently over for the summer, and the feeling of liberty sat uneasily on most of them; they tended to gather together quietly for a while before they broke into boisterous play. and their talk was still of the classroom and the teacher, of books and reprimands." (Jackson)

The children are assembling for the ritual annual stoning of a member of the town, but the description above gives no indication that they are about to witness a barbaric execution.

"The lottery was conducted--as were the square dances, the teen club, the Halloween program--by Mr. Summers. who had time and energy to devote to civic activities." (Jackson)

In the above description, the lottery is grouped together with other town activities, such as dances and picnics, it is made to sound like a harmless, social event, designed for entertainment just like the Halloween program.

epollock | Student


Shirley Jackson’s famous story still shocks people today. By transferring a primitive ritual to a modern American small town and by making clear in passing that the same ritual is being carried out in surrounding towns, the author manages to create in us a growing sense of horror over what is happening.

Very early—in paragraphs 2 and 3—she mentions the stones that have been gathered in preparation for the day’s events. Not until much later in the story does the importance of the stones begin to dawn.

The rules of Jackson’s lottery are simple and straightforward. The male head of each household—or, if he is absent, another representative of the family—draws a slip of paper out of a big black box. One householder pulls out a piece of paper that has a black circle crudely penciled on it. Each member of his family is then obliged to participate in a second drawing. This time the unlucky recipient of the black circle is stoned to death by the other townspeople, including the members of his or her own family. Whatever justification might ever have existed for the ritual has long since been forgotten. The people simply accept the proceedings as an annual civic duty, the up-to-date version of an ancient fertility ritual (“Lottery in June, corn be heavy soon”).

What is spine-chilling in Jackson’s story is the matter-of-factness with which the ritual is carried out. Each June the townspeople assemble to murder one of their neighbors. The discrepancy between ordinary, civilized, modern behavior and the calm acceptance of something as primitive as human sacrifice gives “The Lottery” a terrible power.

Among the story’s many ironies, some of the most notable are: The point of view. An objective narrator tells the story, remaining outside the characters’ minds, yet the narrator’s detachment contrasts with the attitude of the author, who presumably, like the reader, is horrified. That the day’s happenings can be recounted so objectively lends them both credence and force.

The beauty of the June day is out of keeping with the fact that what takes place on the town green is a ritual murder. Though women (misplaced chivalry) can be stoned to death in these yearly proceedings, they are whenever possible protected from having to take part in the general drawing (paragraph 13).

The townspeople are perfectly ordinary types, “surveying their own children, speaking of planting and rain, tractors and taxes” (3). Mr. Summers is in charge because he “had time and energy to devote to civic activities” (4). Old Man Warner is a stickler for tradition. Neighbors chat amiably. Children play. All are grateful that the proceedings will be over in time for them to enjoy their noon meal.

Read the study guide:
The Lottery

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