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Internal conflict refers to a psychological struggle within the mind of a character. Trying to resolve the struggle creates suspense in the story. External conflict refers to the struggle between a character and outside forces such as other characters, circumstances or nature. Such conflict drives the dramatic action in a story.
In The Lottery, the internal conflicts are not as clearcut as the external ones. There are, however, subtle suggestions that such conflict does exist. An example would be at the beginning of the story when the men are asked for assistance by Mr Summers and there is some hesitation. This may indicate that the men are not entirely keen to be involved in what is to happen and are, therefore, reluctant to participate. Convention and common courtesy, though, seem to drive Mr Martin and his oldest son, Baxter, to assist.
Tessie Hutchinson is clearly experiencing internal conflict. When she is asked to draw a slip from the lottery box, she hesitates for a minute. It is obvious that she does not want to participate but feels forced to do so. When she does draw the slip, she snatches a paper out and holds it behind her. Her action is a pertinent display of her desire to not participate.
External conflict is shown by Mr Summers' repeated talk about making a new box. His suggestion conflicts with the views held by the community because no one wishes to upset tradition and the matter remains unresolved.
External conflict is also displayed by Tessie Hutchinson. Once the draw had been made, she protests that it wasn't fair since her husband, who had drawn the marked slip, had not been given enough time to take any paper he wanted. Her complaint creates conflict between her and her husband, Bill, who tells her to shut up. She is also opposed by others, such as Mrs Delacroix and Mrs Graves, who urge her to be a good sport and that they had all had the same chance.
It is quite ironic that the one character who had shown the greatest resistance to the process is also the one who is finally chosen for sacrifice. Tessie Hutchinson is clearly not happy with the whole idea, but destiny has the final say. She becomes an unfortunate and tragic victim of her community's servile and unthinking adherence to what has become a horrendously malicious and seemingly purposeless tradition.
Let's take the internal conflicts first.
Mrs. Adams seems to be questioning the lottery in a subtle way. She asks questions that would provoke thought and discussion about the usefulness of the lottery. The question is, is she motivated by the stopping the senseless killing or is she worried about her own life? The answer to that is in the last paragraph.
Tessie Hutchinson arrives late and is nervous and embarrassed by her tardiness. She seems to be in denial that her moment may come. When the second and third lotteries are started she tries to include more of her family members to decrease her chances in being caught. This shows a conflict between saving herself or caring for her family.
The external conflicts are:
Bill Hutchinson and his wife. It is Tessie's husband that forces the marked unlucky ballot out of Tessie's hand to show it to the town. He is actively participating in the sacrifice/murder of own of his own.
Old Man Warner and the town. He brags about how many Lotteries he has survived and scolds those who think it is time to rethink this. He obviously believes the lottery serves a common good, only because he has survived them all. Perhaps his tune would change if his moment came.
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