How would Shirley Jackson's story "The Lottery" be different if it was told in the first person point of view by Tessie Hutchinson? Show at least two places in the text where the story would change.

Expert Answers info

booboosmoosh eNotes educator | Certified Educator

calendarEducator since 2003

write4,119 answers

starTop subjects are Literature, History, and Social Sciences

[eNotes editors are only permitted to answer one question per posting. If you have another question, please submit it separately.]

In Shirley Jackson's short story, "The Lottery," I believe that had Tessie Hutchinson told the story in the first person, the overall difference would have been a decided lack of the surprise, shock and denial on the part of the reader as the story stands, for Tessie would have shared her inner thoughts, providing a context for the seemingly casual gathering of the townspeople.

When Tessie Hutchinson first arrives, running a little late, there is no sense of an impending threat. Because we do not know what she is thinking, we get no warning. She does things any woman might do when rushing from the house: she chats amiably with those around her as she slips in, probably panting a little, while she dries her hands on her apron. If we were able to read her thoughts, she might well be wishing she could have slipped away unnoticed; she might be one of the people who is beginning to doubt the validity of such a practice; before knowing how she reacts at the end of the story, her personal viewpoint might well express serious concern for her family members, and she might even recall those they have known and lost in the past.

Soon after, the Hutchinsons are united. Mr. Summers cheerfully jokes with Tessie about just making it in time, and Tessie jokes back. Had we the opportunity to hear Tessie's thoughts, I would think that she might express a feeling of dread, as she might every year at this time; she might also very much resent Summer's ability to joke at a time like this. Summers is described as a jovial man, but under the circumstances, humor hardly would seem fitting. This might anger her.

With careful manipulation of Tessie's thoughts, the ending of the story still might be a shock, but the little clues that Jackson leaves along the way would probably be unnecessary or lost.

The idea that "if it doesn't affect me, it isn't a problem" is seen as soon as Tessie complains about the process after her husband chooses "THE" paper. Someone suggests that Tessie be a "good sport." If we had been reading Tessie's first person point of view, we would have realized much sooner why sportsmanship would have been the last thing on her mind.

check Approved by eNotes Editorial
Adam Worcester eNotes educator | Certified Educator

calendarEducator since 2018

write124 answers

starTop subjects are Literature, Business, and History

I can only speculate, but if The Lottery were written from Tessie Hutchinson's viewpoint, it would have to be significantly reworked to set up the ending plot twist and preserve the story's sense of lethal surprise.

For instance, when readers first meet Tessie, she is arriving late to the lottery drawing, saying she "clean forgot" the significance of the date, realizing it only when she looked out her window and saw her husband and son gone. In first person, this explanation would call for more detail. It's difficult to believe any villager could forget the date, given that their life is at stake. A reader might conclude from the narrative that Tessie is nervous, and making a joke to slough it off. In first person, the author would be hard-pressed to show Tessie is nervous without explaining why—in other words, without revealing her thoughts and feelings as the lottery process unfolds. It is precisely the people's hidden thoughts and feelings, however, expressed in brief moments of foreshadowing, that author Shirley Jackson carefully hides from her readers. Could she have done this as effectively in first person? Maybe.

Another textual junction that would change in first person would be the point in the lottery in which a member of the the Hutchinson family is determined to have the "winning" lottery ticket. This is when Tessie begins shouting, incessantly, that the lottery wasn't fair, that her husband, in particular, had been rushed into drawing his slip of paper too fast. In the story, this is where doubt creeps into the readers' minds: Why is Tessie unhappy that someone in her family has won? Doesn't a lottery winner get a nice prize? In first person, again, it would be difficult to have Tessie shouting without some type of internal explanation or rationalization. If the author weren't careful, if she were to tip her hand just a tad too much, it would spoil the readers' shock at the end.

So if The Lottery were to be re-told from Tessie's viewpoint, I would consider re-shaping it. I might reveal what's at stake in the lottery upfront—or at least hint at it—and build the story around Tessie's inner suspense as the lottery unfolds, then her inner dread as she realizes she has "won."

check Approved by eNotes Editorial

Unlock This Answer Now