Shirley Jackson, “The Lottery.” This discussion question has been edited down to a single question: 1. “The Lottery” takes place in summer, a conventional symbol that has a positive...
This discussion question has been edited down to a single question:
1. “The Lottery” takes place in summer, a conventional symbol that has a positive connotation.
What does this setting contribute to the story’s plot? To its atmosphere?
All of these factors, the summer setting, the presence of the children, etc., contribute to the ironic nature of the story. Everything leading up to the climax of the story suggests that something good is about to happene. The setting, the presence of the children, and the familiar names of the townspeople give the reader the impression that it's just any small town and they are about to take part in a ritual that any small town might do. Even the title contributes to this. One would usually assume that a lottery is something good; something most people take part in willingly and hope to win. These factors all make the ending ironic, alarming, and disturbing.
Yes, these details lull, but only for a short time. In the first paragraph, look at the use of language. Jackson describes the lottery as something the villagers "had" to do. The boys are filling their pockets with stones and guarding a huge stone pile. The men who are gathered, are not loud and talkative. Sure they tell a few jokes, but nobody is laughing; they merely "smile." And then we have the characters Mr. Summers and Mr. Graves--clearly, they are another clue. So, using summer as the setting serves as a foil to the dark clues Jackson sprinkles throughout the story.
eNotes has some great resources for this topic.
The warm summer day has the same effect on the reader as the seemingly pleasant small town atmosphere concocted by Jackson; these details lull the reader into a false sense of security. One of the reasons why the ending is so shocking is because Jackson deliberately chose such benign and pleasant trappings for her gruesome tale.
Everything is really peaceful in that first sentence. In the opening paragraph, there is talk of sunshine and flowers. It is a completely ironic beginning, because the story is actually very dark. I think the beginning serves to establish a happy mood, to make the reality even more jarring for the reader later.
What, if anything, might the names Graves, Adams, Summers, and Delacroix signify in the context of this story?
Do you think these names are intended to have any special significance? Why or why not?
What role do the children play in the ritual?
How can you explain their presence in the story?
Do they have any symbolic role?
What symbolic significance might be found in the way the characters are dressed? in their conversation?