Mr. Summers runs all town functions, including the lottery.
Irony is when something happens differently than you expect it. In this case, we do not know what the lottery is until the end of the story. It seems like a harmless town function, like the other activities Mr. Summers is...
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. He was a round-faced, jovial man and he ran the coal business, and people were sorry for him. because he had no children and his wife was a scold.
There are a few ironic elements to this. First of all, people feel sorry for Mr. Summers not because he has to conduct the lottery where a person dies every year, but because he isn’t married. By all accounts this is a perfectly normal village, except for the murderous streak. Apparently every other day of the year things proceed as they do everywhere else. No one seems much affected by the annual stoning of an innocent person.
Second, the lottery is referred to as a “civic” activity and the implication is that Mr. Summers is in charge of it because he has no life. He is also described as jovial, which is not what you would expect of a hardened murderer.
The first indication that Mr. Summers and the lottery are malevolent is when he asks for help. It is noted that everyone is avoiding him.
The villagers kept their distance, leaving a space between themselves and the stool, and when Mr. Summers said, "Some of you fellows want to give me a hand?" there was a hesitation before two men … came forward to hold the box steady on the stool while Mr. Summers stirred up the papers inside it.
If the lottery were a normal civic activity and Mr. Summers was just the guy who organized the dances, why would people be keeping their distance from him? This is our first clue that something is really wrong with this lottery.
Tradition is very important in this small town, as it is in every small town. Most villages and towns have their own traditional get-togethers like dances and holiday celebrations. Jackson makes us question the purpose of these seemingly innocuous traditions by showing us a village where tradition is more important than anything else, including the lives of the villagers.