In "The Lottery" by Shirley Jackson, how would you characterize the plot?Is is driven by suspense? Is it chronological?
The plot in "The Lottery" is structured in straight chronological order, and employs the traditional narrative conventions of exposition, description, and dialogue. It is driven by suspense, but the suspense is introduced very slowly and subtly, leading to the story's shocking and horrible conclusion.
In the beginning of the story, all seems to be well:
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.
It is on this beautiful and welcoming morning that the people of the village begin to gather for the lottery to begin at 10:00. The plot continues in this tone as first the children, then the men, and then the women begin to congregate in the town square. Mr. Summers will conduct the lottery, just as he conducts "the square dances, the teen-age club, the Halloween program." He has a round face and a "jovial" manner. So far, so good. No reason for alarm. No suspense. The story continues with exposition explaining the procedures of the lottery and its history, the background of some characters, and the final arrival of others.
The first real clue that all may not be as pleasant as it seems enters the story when the usually jovial Mr. Summers speaks in a sober tone, declaring "guess we better get started, get this over with, so's we can go back to work." The lottery is no longer a friendly gathering; it is something undesirable that must be done so that it can be put behind them.
Suspense is now a part of the plot, and it is developed, again with subtlety. A mysterious list of the villagers' names is completed, and a "sudden hush" falls over crowd as Mr. Summers gets events underway. As the lottery begins, some villagers smile, but they do so "humorlessly and nervously." Others, who have drawn their slips of paper, turn them "over and over nervously." Most of the people "were quiet, wetting their lips, not looking around." The change in tone adds suspense to the plot as the reader tries to reconcile the distress of the villagers with their beautiful surroundings on this June morning.
The tension increases as the plot develops, slips are read, desperate arguments ensue, some slips are drawn again, and--significantly--one girl in the crowd whispers, "I hope it's not Nancy." With this comment, the lottery becomes very ominous. Winning the lottery is not to be desired, but the reason is still unknown. The suspense peaks when, finally, the "winner" is announced, the crowd becomes a savage mob, and Tessie Hutchinson is stoned to death.