How is the description of the lottery in paragraph 1 meant to make the reader feel?

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The first paragraph of "The Lottery" is primarily a description of the setting. It evokes feelings of warmth and security—with a sunny sky overhead boding a good day. It is summer, and flowers are blooming "profusely," suggesting that this town has enjoyed weather which will foreshadow positive outcomes for the town, adding to the bounty of their existence. The grass is "richly green," symbolizing abundant life, and it is around 10 a.m.—thus the day is still full of hopeful promise. The "lottery" is mentioned, itself a word that connotes joy and material excess. In every way, the setting seems bursting with promise and life.

Of course, this contrasts sharply with the outcome of the story. The reader gradually learns that the people in this town are preparing to end life for one of their fellow citizens and that the security the reader feels is intentionally misleading to further horrify them (through the contrast of what is expected at the onset to the stoning of Tessie Hutchinson). It is this contrast that propels the reader to examine the darkness that lurks under the surface of societies and individuals; sometimes beauty and bounty are facades that rest on the sacrifice of others.

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Here is the first paragraph:

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 26th 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.

The opening paragraph, almost journalistic in its detached description, is meant to describe the lottery as being an ordinary part of ordinary lives. The tone of the opening is light-hearted and upbeat, conveying pleasure through the warmth of a summer day, flowers in bloom, and the "rich" green grass. This seems like a festive occasion in an everyday, safe, all-American town.

This description disarms us: we are certainly not on guard for the horror this particular ritual will turn out to be. We are lulled into a sense of safety that makes the subsequent shock all the more intense. It is only later—as we go back over this seemingly bright, light, and sparkling paragraph—that an ominous note appears: why would people want to "be through" this event so quickly?

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I would argue that the opening paragraph of "The Lottery" is meant to lull the reader into a false sense of security, the better to make the shocking ending all the more effective.

As the story begins, it just seems like any other pleasant sunny summer's day in late June. The flowers are blossoming, the grass is richly green, and the locals are gathering together in the village square for a lottery. What could be more normal than that? At this early stage in the story we have no reason to think there's anything especially weird going on. It just seems like the kind of scene you'd witness in countless villages at this time of year across the length and breadth of America.

The fact that everything initially appears so normal, so civilized, makes subsequent events all the more disturbing. This is the last place on earth where we'd imagine such a barbaric ritual taking place. And even as the true nature of the lottery is finally revealed we still can't quite get our heads around the fact that something like this could happen in the middle of such an ordinary, regular village in the heart of New England.

This is largely because Jackson has constructed her story in such a way as to make the brilliant mid-summer sunshine of the opening paragraph a counterpoint to the moral darkness on display in this age-old ritual of human sacrifice. In figurative terms, the darkness prevails, but only against the literal backdrop of a glorious summer's day. It is this contrast of light and shade that discomforts the reader, making us more amenable to Jackson's disturbing suggestion that there is great evil lurking just beneath the surface of so-called civilized life.

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