How does the story "The Lottery" shock us?

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The ending is fairly shocking.  If we go back to the first time having read the story, I am not sure if anyone could legitimately predict that members of the community would pick up stones and pelt one of their members with rocks until they died.  That's fairly shocking.  The tyranny of the community in stark contrast to the pastoral and rural elements of New England help to provide a sense of juxtaposition which makes the ending of the ceremony all the more shocking.  Finally, the zeal and manner in which all members of the community partake in the ceremony is fairly shocking.  Anytime one sees children raising stones against parents, old and young alike, and all members in this harmonious moment of sheer brutality and unabashed cruelty, I would say that is a sight worthy of shock.

epollock | Student

Shirley Jackson’s famous story shocks us. 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.


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.


As a matter of course, even the small son of the victim is given some stones to throw at his mother. That is perhaps the most horrifying detail of all.

mkcapen1 | Student

One of the most shocking elements that the reader experiences in the story "The Lottery" is the community member’s lack of emotion at having to kill another human being.  The individuals seem to be numb to the idea of the person's death.  They don't even have any recall as to why the lottery exists anymore, but rather than break a tradition they are willing to savagely end a person's life.

The people also shock us because they gather for the event in joy.  The children even participate by making sure they have gathered a nice pile of rocks to throw.  The people are able to discuss everyday events and don't exhibit any range of emotions with the exception of the victim, Tessie. 

When Tessie begs for her life the people become agitated at her for acting up over something as horrid as her death.  Yet, Tessie a few minutes before had been as much of a participant waiting to see who she would get too stoned to death.  The shock value is in the complacency of the people and the fact that the lottery is not a good thing.


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The Lottery

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