How do the objects foreshadow "The Lottery's" depressing ending?The thesis statement is "In Shirley Jackson's short story 'The Lottery', the objects foreshadow the story's depressing ending." I'm...

How do the objects foreshadow "The Lottery's" depressing ending?

The thesis statement is "In Shirley Jackson's short story 'The Lottery', the objects foreshadow the story's depressing ending." I'm supposed to write three topic sentences that answer this question, and each needs to be supported with specific examples.

Normally, I wouldn't have a difficult time doing this, but I hate this thesis statement and I'm required to use it.

I may be all caught up in semantics, but the way this sentence is written is killing me.  I was going to list each object as the topic and then give examples of when each foreshadows the ending.  The problem with that is that my topic would be an example, and it wouldn't really answer the question.  Also, I can think of several symbols, but I can't think of many "objects".  The box, the lottery, the tradition?

I can only think of one answer to this question, and that is "Using symbolism...", and then I could easily follow that with a few specific examples.  The problem is that I need two more answers to use as topic sentences.

Another possibility is that this is all much easier than I'm making it, and I'm just approaching it from the wrong angle.  I guess I'm a technical or mechanical thinker, and my professor much more free-spirted.  So, in the past I've wasted enormous amounts of time overthinking her assignments when they were very simple.

Expert Answers
Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I can sense the frustration.  The "objects" aspect is a bit troublesome.  To me, it sounds like you are on the right track in being able to connect the specific objects to how brutally Tessie is treated, and to the savagery of the village, in general.  The box's condition is symbolic that it has been used for a while, since the village originated this tradition.  Its weathered and shabby condition is reflective of this temporal element, indicating that cruelty has been present for some time.  The slips of paper are representative of how all individuals are represented in the practice of cruelty, and also how there is a terrible rationality governing the villagers and how they treat one another.  The stones used to beat Tessie are representations of the town's cruelty.  I think that every object that can be identified from the story has to link to the overall practice of cruelty and how, by themselves, they can mean little.  Yet, when seen in light of the traditional practice of the villagers, there is horrifying savagery attached to them.

susan3smith eNotes educator| Certified Educator

When I approach this particular short story, I ask my students about the elements of surprise and predictability.  I think both are necessary to make the ending effective.  If a certain amount of foreshadowing were not employed, then the ending would seem random and unfitting.  However, it the ending were predictable from the start, then the story has no suspense.  You might consider approaching your thesis from this angle:  How does Jackson use foreshadowing to create an effective and appropriate ending for her short story.  You might begin with the objects that foreshadow the doom:  the rocks, the box, etc.  But then you might discuss how Jackson also misleads the reader.  The contradictory elements in the story:  the flowers, the children, the sunshine.  Then you might describe how both contribute the suspense of the story, keeping the reading guessing and predicting until the bitter end.  This may be a broader interpretation of the question, but I think it would add some depth to your analysis.

amy-lepore eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The box itself is an object, and in deplorable condition.  The talk is that it needs to be replaced or at least fixed, but it just gets placed back on the shelf until the next year...very much like the conversation among the townspeople that the lottery itself should be reconsidered.  In other towns, the lottery has been done away with, but the oldest among them won't hear of ousting tradition.

The slips of paper which replaced the marbles/stones are also an object...they are a step in the right direction of change, modernizing, and possibly ending a "tradition" that no one can understand or remember the origin, but they still represent the families.

The children picking up and collecting their stones...the first to cast them...are also an object to think about for this thesis.

You might even consider the tradition of washing dishes makes Tessie almost miss her own death.  It's a story of tradtions...dishes, an annual event, the lottery, the death.

Susan Hurn eNotes educator| Certified Educator

One thing's for sure, Verdilicious--you are working hard on this assignment! Below I copied your thesis as it was given to you, and then wrote three topic sentences that might address it as it is stated. Would these work for you?

Also, you could use your intro/conclusion to discuss the force of tradition or any other ideas you wanted to work in.

In Shirley Jackson's short story "The Lottery," the objects foreshadow the story's depressing ending.

The lottery box foreshadows the random nature of an innocent's death.

The slips of paper foreshadow the entire community's participation in a ritual of horror.

The stones foreshadow the savage cruelty inherent in these "good" people.

Hope this helps.

accessteacher eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I would like to highlight how the stones in particular are used to foreshadow the stories ending. At the beginning of this excellent story, we are deliberately misleaded into believing that the stones are of no consequence, a kind of boys game, as the sons of the village collect them and gather them together, and stop them being taken by others. However, it is only looking back when we have reached the end of the story, that we realise the true chilling significance of the stones, as even Tessie's best friend struggles to lift a stone that is too big for her to throw at her friend.

mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Something else: 

The eager gathering of the stones by the little boys foreshadows the continuation of this horrific "tradition." 

The black wooden box, much like a coffin, foreshadows death.

verdilicious | Student

I thought of another way to explain the difficulty that I'm having.

(original thesis)...the objects foreshadow the story's depressing ending/how?
I believe that this is asking for the method used by the objects.  My answer would be symbolism, and I would support this with examples.  I just can't find any other answers for the other paragraphs.

(not the thesis)...the objects use symbolism to foreshadow the story's depressing ending/how?
I believe that this is asking for specific examples.  My answer would be to list an object and describe how it foreshadowed the ending, and I would support it with specific examples.  (This isn't the thesis though, but it seems like this is how everyone interprets it.  They don't mean the same thing though, do they?)

Does anyone else see what I'm getting at?

verdilicious | Student

*foreshadow in place of foretell


verdilicious | Student

What I'm caught up on though is answering the question "how?".  I feel like all of the above are valid examples of how, but that the method through which they do what they do would be the answer (and the topic).  The only one that I can think of is "through symbolism" and then use basically all of the above ideas as examples to support that.  The problem is that my professor wants 3 topics that answer the question and examples for each.

Or, I'm just approaching this incorrectly, but it seems that if she just wanted examples of each object as a topic, she would have written the thesis differently.  Like, ""In Shirley Jackson's short story 'The Lottery', many of the objects use symbolism to foretell the story's depressing ending" or something.  Then, mentioning an object and offering examples would answer the question "How do many of the objects use symbolism to fortell the story's depressing ending".  That's not the thesis though, and the one that was provided seems very difficult to support from more than one angle.

Does anyone else see where I'm coming from?  Normally, I don't have such a difficult time with this sort of thing.  I just don't think that this one is as simple as it appears when you examine it closely.

Or, I'm just wrong.

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The Lottery

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