In what way is the title “The Lottery” misleading? Why would the author want to trick the reader by having a misleading title?

Quick answer:

The title "The Lottery" is misleading because people associate lotteries with positive benefits such as prizes of cash or luxury items. The author tricks readers with this deceptive title to increase the horror of the surprise ending.

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The famous short story "The Lottery" by Shirley Jackson begins deceptively. The author describes a beautiful day, warm and sunny, with blossoming flowers and rich green grass. Villagers gather in the square for an annual event that sounds at first like a holiday. They will all participate in an activity and then be back home in time for noon dinner. Villages all over the area celebrate this occasion. The kids are just out of school and are in playful moods. Jackson points out that the same man who conducts the lottery also oversees other holiday programs.

Jackson misleads readers with this jubilant, festive atmosphere to heighten the shock when they discover the quiet horror of the lottery's real intention. It is not a carefree holiday, but rather a method of choosing a ritualistic sacrifice. One villager is murdered every year, supposedly to ensure a good harvest. The light, sunny, playful beginning creates a sharp contrast to the terrible ritual of the villagers killing one of their neighbors, and perhaps even a member of their own family.

Just as the lighthearted, festive beginning of the story is intentionally misleading, so too is the title. In the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, the primary definition of lottery is: "A drawing of lots in which prizes are distributed to the winners among persons buying a chance." When readers see the title "The Lottery," they first think of games in which they can win money or prizes. Nowadays, people can win millions of dollars in state-run lotteries. In the early twentieth century, lotteries were games played mainly by poor people hoping to gain a few extra dollars. Jackson uses this misleading title so that the surprise of readers will add to their horror when they realize the person who wins this lottery does not win a prize but instead is painfully stoned to death.

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The title to this great short story is misleading because of the connotation that most readers are likely to have about the word "lottery." Generally speaking, people enter lotteries in order to obtain or win something desirable. It could be a physical prize of some kind, like a car or television, but often times the winner is given a lot of money. This is how a state lottery works. You buy a ticket in hopes of having the winning lottery number that makes you a millionaire.

Readers begin reading "The Lottery" and are given images that fit quite nicely with the title and the idea of winning something fun. Readers see townsfolk gathering in a town square, and they are engaged in conversations with each other. It is a break from the normal work day. Kids are freely running around. The general atmosphere is quite festive in appearance. There is a box with names in it, and for all appearances, the person whose name is pulled is going to win something fun.

Unfortunately, the author shows readers something quite different. Jackson is able to hold off the turn until the final closing moments of the story, when readers realize that the lottery winner is given the last "prize" he or she will ever get. They have "won" death.

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