In "The Lottery's" style, structure, and organization, was Jackson effective in making her point?In "The Lottery's" style, structure, and organization, was Jackson effective in making her point?

Expert Answers
Lori Steinbach eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Shirley Jackson's "The Lottery" is a short story which has stood the test of time and is read in classrooms everywhere--which means she was undoubtedly successful at making her point. The three points you mention--style, structure, and organization--are undoubtedly the reason for that success.

Style refers to how something is said.  One of Jackson's themes is that mindless, unthinking repetition of rituals is a barbaric and unacceptable practice.  The ironic tone of the work is set from the very beginning; we understand a lottery to be something positive and exciting.  She doesn't give us any indication that this lottery will be any different as she describes a festive, anticipatory atmosphere.  Everyone has gathered.  Kids are out of school, men are discussing the weather and the crops, women are hustling to get their housework completed so they can come join the festivities. It's the same atmosphere as for a party, a celebration.  We do get more details and some grumbling and discussion about the future of the lottery, but that same anticipatory tone lasts until almost the last paragraphs of the story.  Jackson's tone and style create the illusion of something great to come, making the irony and the ending even more shocking.  It all sounds so matter-of fact and ordinary, again contrasting with the actual ghoulishness of this lottery.

Structure and organization are essentially the same, and Jackson uses them to accomplish her purpose.  This beautiful day begins with ordinary people doing ordinary things.  There is a long segment of anticipation, then, as we read all about the history and the rituals of the lottery.  We still don't know the winner of the lottery will be condemned to death, but we do understand it has undergone some modernization.  And we are rather relieved.  This includes some discussions of what others are doing; and one town has even, shockingly, gotten rid of the lottery.  Again, this long, unfolding narrative adds credibility to the inherency (and irony) of the lottery--every town should have one.  The ending is rather abrupt and comes upon the readers rather quickly, adding to the shocking nature of the lottery. 

A young son being handed a small stone with which to help kill his mother is one of the final images, and it combines style and structure to create effectiveness.  Giving Davy a stone is considered perfectly appropriate--continuing the ironic style of making everything sound so ordinary and matter-of-fact and the structure of having even her own baby turn against her at the end.  It's an effective work in every way.

cldbentley eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In "The Lottery," Shirley Jackson utilizes many literary elements in order to present her theme.  Overall, Jackson's style in this story is relaxed and suggest a story that is written merely for entertainment.  The organization and structure of the story mirrors this effect, since it is written primarily in chronological order with a minimum of interruptions to provide information related to the lottery being conducted. 

By writing in a relaxed an simple manner, the heinous act of stoning the lottery "winner" becomes even more shocking to the reader than if there had been an overly obvious air of suspense throughout the story.  Although Jackson uses foreshadowing and suggestion throughout her story, as well as an extensive use of symbolism, the reader does not expect an audience member to be murdered, especially in the manner that takes place.  This surprise causes the event to have more impact than it would have if the reader truly knew what to expect.

mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Shirley Jackson's deceptive matter-of-fact style contributes to the horror that the reader feels at the story's end because it mirrors the way in which humans can become inured to violence. And, not only are people accustomed to violence, they derive a certain pleasure in it as Jackson suggests by having the children delight in gathering the stones. Published in 1948, Jackson's story is, as a critic has written,"a sensitive and faithful anatomy of our times."

Yet, while Jackson suggests many themes, there is yet some ambiguity to her story.  Until her death, she received letters questioning the story's true meaning.

accessteacher eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I think other editors are correct in making the point that if a story is "effective" it is going to be recognised as being an excellent example of a short story and will be studied long after it was written. The fact that this story is still just as talked about and just as popular makes this an excellent short story - one that is truly amazing. Every year I read this story out loud to my Grade 12 class and they all are just as shocked by the ending as I am. A true classic.

bullgatortail eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Since "The Lottery" is well established as one of the finest American short stories of the second half of the 20th century, I believe Shirley Jackson was highly effective in her construction of the unusual tale. The story unfolds in a simple manner, describing what appears to be a pleasant, annual event in a small farming community. The climax and surprise ending continues to horrify new readers--no doubt one of Jackson's primary intentions.

ask996 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Interesting observation about the laid back nature of this story. When my students and I read it, we always talk about the way it's set up. Introudced like the Homecoming or Old Settlers days that some towns celebrate. It is this charming set up with the slightly off kilter and deceptive upon first reading details that make this story so horrifying.

Karen P.L. Hardison eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Some of her symbols contributed to an effective expression of her point regarding the consequence of blindly following blind tradition. One such symbol is the "faded house dresses and sweaters" the women uniformly wore. These symbolize the results of blind belief and ritual built on blind superstition: the callous dehumanization of self and others.

lrwilliams eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I would have to agree that since the story has with stood the test of time and is still taught and read you would have to say that Jackson's style, structure, and organization were quite effective. This is one of my favorite short stories.

epollock | Student

She was extremely effective in making her point because the ending was that much more horrific. Her well thought out descriptions and irony result in an ending that people were not expecting. Also, her use of symbolism adds to the effect that the ending created.