What is the difference in who draws the slips of paper in the two rounds of the lottery?

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booboosmoosh eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Shirley Jackson's short story "The Lottery," there are two rounds in the lottery that the town holds.

The first round determines from which family the "winner" will be selected. It is during this time that determinations are publicly made as to who is going to represent each family in this process. Generally the man of the household does so, but two situations are brought up that require an exception be made:

Mr. Summers consulted his list. “Clyde Dunbar,” he said. “That’s right. He’s broke his leg, hasn’t he? Who’s drawing for him?”

“Me, I guess,” a woman said, and Mr. Summers turned to look at her. “Wife draws for her husband,” Mr. Summers said. “Don’t you have a grown boy to do it for you, Janey. . . ?” Mr. Summers waited with an expression of polite interest while Mrs. Dunbar answered.

“Horace’s not but sixteen yet,” Mrs. Dunbar said regretfully. “Guess I gotta fill in for the old man this year.”

In another family a young boy, Jack Watson (who for some reason does not have a father to draw for the family) states that he will be drawing for himself and his mother, and other folks encourage him:

Glad to see your mother’s got a man to do it.

This first lottery may also serve to account for all of the families in town—that they are present as required. Names are called starting with "Adams."

While the men generally pick in the first round, this is the only part of the lottery where a man has a specific responsibility for the family. In the second part of the lottery, each member of a family must then choose a piece of paper. Even little ones are not exempt. The man of the family is in charge of selecting a piece of paper, but is not expected (or even allowed?) to step in for his wife or child. It would seem that not even someone who is unwell is left out of the second lottery. As names are called, Mrs. Dunbar (who is choosing because her husband's leg is broken), advises her son to be prepared:

You get ready to run tell Dad, Mrs. Dunbar said.

It would seem that Mr. Dunbar is to be included in the lottery's outcome, even though he cannot walk.

While the first lottery selects the family that will eventually make the ultimate sacrifice, the second lottery selects the individual.

As the story progresses, it becomes apparent that the lottery's purpose is not to select a winner and award a prize, but to take that which is most precious to each individual in the town: a life.

readerofbooks eNotes educator| Certified Educator

This is a perceptive question. There are, indeed, two rounds in the lottery. In the first round, the head of the family draws. This purpose of this round is to determine which family is chosen for the ritualistic stoning. Once this is established, there is another round. In this second round, there is another drawing among the family members with one exception. Daughters draw with the husband's family. Here are the words of Mr. Summers. It is actually repeated twice.

"Daughters draw with their husbands' families, Tessie," Mr. Summers said gently. "You know that as well as anyone else."

The second drawing is important to the story, because we really begin to see fear. When the Hutchinson's "win" the lottery, fear grips the family. The Hutchinson family has five eligible people: Bill (the father), Tessie (the mother), and three children: Bill junior, Nancy, and Dave.

The very fact that children are included in the lottery shows the utter barbarity of the lottery. At the time of drawing, a little girl whispers:

"I hope it's not Nancy..."

The scene is tense. When it is revealed that Tessie is chosen, the other family members are relieved and the children are filled with laughter. 

The second drawing brings home the utter evilness of the lottery. It brings out the worst in people. 

Read the study guide:
The Lottery

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