The Lottery (short story vs movie) In the 1996 film "The Lottery", what is the plot diagram (exposition, rising action, climax, falling action, resolution), types of characters (dynamic/static), setting (place/time), and conflict (main type? Internal or external?)?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

One major difference that changes the story is that Shirley Jackson’s “The Lottery,” originally published in 1948 in The New Yorker, doesn’t focus on one main character. It’s an overview of the lottery from the perspective of a narrator. The film The Lottery focuses on a character who isn't...

Unlock
This Answer Now

Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this answer and thousands more. Enjoy eNotes ad-free and cancel anytime.

Start your 48-Hour Free Trial

One major difference that changes the story is that Shirley Jackson’s “The Lottery,” originally published in 1948 in The New Yorker, doesn’t focus on one main character. It’s an overview of the lottery from the perspective of a narrator. The film The Lottery focuses on a character who isn't only the sole protagonist but who also is an outsider in the town. Having an outsider experience the oddness of the town changes the tone of the story quite a bit when compared to a story where the lottery itself is normal and accepted by everyone in the narrative.

The exposition of a story is how background information is introduced into a story. It gives a reader information about the characters in the story and the location in which it takes place.

Most of the exposition in the short story centers around the idea of tradition. People gather in the field; they talk and joke while children play. They’re focused on returning to their days after the event. There’s a long portion focused on whether the box that holds the lottery papers should be remade or kept according to tradition, even though it’s old and broken-down.

The exposition in the movie is focused on Jason. He explains that he doesn’t remember his mother; he goes to visit his dying father and holds the bracelet of the mother he never knew, reflecting that she must have been small. In this way, the film shows how ignorant Jason is, both of his parents’ history and of New Hope itself. He doesn’t remember the town, her death, or where she’s buried. When his girlfriend leaves him, he’s free to leave and fulfill his father’s request to scatter his ashes on his mother’s grave.

The exposition in the film focuses more on the protagonist and less on the event itself. One reason for this is that New Hope is the initial mystery that drives the film, while the lottery itself is already known and accepted in the short story. The lottery is the central question in the story for the reader, while it’s both the answer to the initial mystery and the start of a new one in the film.

The rising action of a story is the series of events that happen to move the story along. It's what makes the story interesting and exciting; rising action captures the interest of the reader and keeps them moving through the story.

The rising action in Jackson’s short story is the drawing of initial lots in the lottery after stones are gathered and people are assembled. There’s discussion over who will draw for the absent people, and then the drawing begins. Jackson focuses on the subtle nerves of the viewers as the slips of paper are pulled and reviewed. The rising action comes to an end when the Hutchinson family gets the slip of paper with the black mark on it.

The rising action in the film focuses on the strange interactions Jason has with people in New Hope. He questions many things about the town, including the platform being built in the town square, the unwelcoming attitudes of every person in a position of authority, and the empty inn that the innkeepers claim is booked for the Fourth of July. At one point, the gas station attendant addresses Jason’s difficulty in burying his father in New Hope, saying, “They ain’t ever going to let any part of your father back in this town.” This is central to the mystery since people in town keep pretending—poorly—that they don’t know who Jason is or who his parents were.

Jason also suffers nightmares that flash back to his mother’s death in the town when he was a little boy. She was a past lottery loser who was stoned to death. His grandmother finds him at his mother’s grave and explains that someone switched his father’s ashes—and then points out that many people in New Hope have June 27th engraved as their death day on their tombstones. Jason realizes it’s due to the lottery. He’s then arrested and kept from leaving town.

Like the story, the film doesn’t come out and explain exactly what the lottery is. The viewer has to determine what’s happening the same way that the reader does in the story, based on context clues. The rising action is much more pronounced and drawn out over days in the film instead of taking place one summer morning. It also focuses on the mystery of the behavior of the residents of New Hope instead of only focusing on the lottery itself.

The rising action also contributes to the slow unveiling of the nature of the lottery to the reader, to Jason, and to the viewer. Once they’re aware of what the lottery is, the story builds to the climax, where the lottery takes place. In the case of the film, it also focuses on Jason’s arrest and awareness that he will have to be a part of the lottery. It continues to the initial drawing of lots, like the short story.

While the rising action of both stories ends in the same place —with the drawing of lots—the film has a much longer and more detailed plot. Because it focuses mainly on Jason and a few others in town, the viewer is more aware of the people in the movie than those in the story. They have personalities, connections, and backstories.

The climax of a story is the most dramatic point of the story. It’s when everything comes to the point the rising action was building to. It has the highest tension of the story.

In the short story, the climax of the story is when Tessie is selected from the Hutchinson family to be stoned to death. The children open their lots and see that they’re not chosen, and the father follows. Only the mother, Tessie, is left.

In the film, the climax begins when Jason is marched onto the stage to draw his ballot. He’s told to “draw his ballot” and then is marched off the stage while the mayor chooses his. The mayor reads the name of the last person to draw, and it’s Henry Watkins, the young gas station attendant. Once everyone has their ballots, they open them—and the innkeeper’s family is chosen. Felice and Maggie Dunbar walk onto the stage and choose the final ballots.

The difference between the climax of the short story and film is who is selected. It’s Tessie Hutchinson in the story and Maggie Dunbar in the film. They’re both mothers. However, Tessie is the one who complains that the drawing wasn’t fair in the story, while Maggie’s daughter, Felice, complains that it wasn’t fair in the film.

The falling action of a story is what happens after the climax. It’s the fallout from what happened during the climax and paves the way toward the resolution.

In the short story, the falling action shows Bill taking the paper from Tessie and proving to the crowd that she was selected. The assembled people then gather, take stones, and move to the place where they’ll stone Tessie to death.

In the film, the falling action shows the town picking up stones and preparing to stone Maggie. They then stone her to death. Afterwards, Maggie’s body is covered with a lace cloth, and Jason says, “God help you” to the people there before he turns to leave. He’s stopped by the men in the town, who chase him into the woods with guns.

Jason fights with the deputy and accidentally kills him. Then he escapes and tells people outside the town what he witnessed.

The falling action in the film extends beyond what happens in the story because there’s a different resolution. It includes the stoning of Maggie and Felice using a stone to hit her mother at the urging of the town preacher. It also covers Jason escaping from New Hope, a feature that wasn’t present in the story because there were no outside characters or dissenting people in the story.

The resolution of a story is the end of the story. It’s when the story is over and things are finished, when there’s a solution. Keep in mind that a resolution doesn’t have to be positive.

In the short story, the resolution is Tessie being stoned to death. The story ends with the words,

“It isn’t fair, it isn’t right,” Mrs. Hutchinson screamed, and then they were upon her.

There’s no turning back. Tessie is being killed, and no one is arguing against it.

In the film, the resolution is outside law enforcement not believing Jason. Felice is also unwilling to back his story and admit what happened. She lies and says her mother died of a stroke. Jason ends up imprisoned and unwilling to speak to a psychiatrist.

Characters can be either dynamic or static. To put it simply, dynamic characters change, while static characters stay the same.

In “The Lottery,” all the characters are dynamic. No one overtly questions the practice of the lottery. Even Tessie, who draws the final lot and is stoned to death, only questions the way the lottery is handled—not the practice itself. No one changes from beginning to end.

In the film, Jason changes during his experiences in New Hope. He’s still the same man at the end of the story, but he has a better idea of his past as well as his capabilities. When everyone else falls in line and kills Maggie, Jason opposes them and runs, escaping. He also stands up to the town, even though he isn’t believed. At the end, he also remembers throwing one of the rocks at his mother.

Felice Dunbar also changes—and then reverts—during the film. She begins as a member of the town dedicated to their traditions but later decides to leave with Jason and start a new life. When she’s stopped—and her mother is chosen for the lottery—she gives into pressure, stoning her mother and arguing for the cause of New Hope to Jason as she helps him escape at the end.

The setting of a story is the location or time in which it takes place.

In the short story, the entire narrative takes place in a small town with about 300 residents. Jackson never specifies the name of the town or what state it’s in. The entire story takes place in less than a couple of hours on June 27th.

In the movie, the primary action takes place in New Hope, Maine. Jason finds out where his mother is buried by looking at her death certificate in the doctor’s office of the hospital where his father died. Jason arrives in New Hope on June 24th, which is shown when the innkeeper reminds him he must be “out on the 26th,” which is two days after his arrival.

The conflict of a story is the struggle between two or more forces. It can take various forms. An internal struggle is one that takes place within a person. An external struggle takes place between a person and something outside themselves.

In the short story, the conflict is an external one. It’s man versus society. One person every year is killed because of a tradition that people barely remember the reason for. It’s this community tradition that leads to the death of Tessie Hutchinson.

In the movie, the conflict is the same. It’s man versus society. Jason literally fights with the authority figures—mayor, law enforcement, preacher—in New Hope to fulfill his father’s dying wish. He then opposes the tradition of the lottery, which is accepted by the community. Even Felice argues in favor of the tradition after her mother is killed.

Another major difference between the film and the story—one that affects all the other factors—is the tone of the story versus the tone of the film, especially at the beginning.

The story opens with a bright sunny day and people gathering. Children play. People chat. It’s a friendly crowd with no real gloom on the horizon.

The film opens with Jason, a tow truck driver, finding a dead man in the trunk of a car that wrecks into the one he’s towing. It continues and shows him in a hospital with flickering lights and a screaming man being guided through the halls. It’s dark and forbidding right from the start. Though New Hope looks lovely and sunny, it’s clear something dark lurks below the surface from the beginning, because the characters act strange and unwelcoming.

The differing tones make the two versions of the story very dissimilar. While the conclusion of Jackson’s story is shocking because of the light-hearted crowd and sunny day, the movie is more of a thriller throughout.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team