In Shirley Jackson's "The Lottery," could anyone tell me if they were surprised by the ending?In Shirley Jackson's "The Lottery," could anyone tell me if they were surprised by the ending?

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William Delaney eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I wasn't exactly surprised by the fact that a citizen was stoned to death, but I was surprised by the mass ferocity with which everybody moved in on the poor victim. They were all obviously enjoying what they were doing. I too read it for the first time long ago, and I'm sure I could never recapture that same feeling the ending gave me then. Shirley Jackson handled the whole story beautifully. She wanted the ending to come as a surprise, but at the same time she had to hold the reader's interest all the way up to that ending. Otherwise some readers might get the notion that this was just a kind of ho-hum story about folks in an ordinary American village who were holding some sort of picnic. That is more or less the impression I think I had when I first read it, but there was something just a little bit weird about it that kept me reading. Why were those kids collecting all those stones? What kind of a lottery was it? The author had a serious problem in holding the reader without losing the stunning effect of her surprise ending.


bullgatortail eNotes educator| Certified Educator

It's been many years since I first read Shirley Jackson's "The Lottery" (probably in junior high school in the late 1960s), but I remember being completely surprised--and quite confounded--by the ending. After many later readings, I recognize that all the signs were there once the Hutchinsons were determined to be the chosen family: Tessie's horror at being named the "winner" was probably the first solid clue, but the author provides examples of foreshadowing throughout. Jackson sets up the story as a seemingly innocent tale in an everyday American farm town, so the expectation of a ritual stoning never crossed my mind.

Kristen Lentz eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I was absolutely surprised and shocked by the ending of this short story.  All of the pleasant, rural details that Jackson includes makes the setting feel so pastoral and simple.  The characterization threw me for a loop too.  The farmers in their pressed shirts and overalls and the women in their neat little sweaters--well, they don't exactly fit the killer-mob profile! 

I have had my students read this short story before, and the shock-factor that the ending of this story brings is without comparison, except for perhaps the ending in "The Lady or the Tiger."

Kristen Lentz eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I love that post #4 brought up The Hunger Games in reference to "The Lottery."  It would make for a really great essay/research paper to compare the two stories, because they have so much in common.  Both use violence to criticize the socially-accepted use of violence, both employ a "lottery" system, and both stories involve children in killing.  The approach though, as pointed out by post #4, is dramatically different, because "The Lottery" blind-sides the reader with the viciousness of its outcome. 

Karen P.L. Hardison eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I was surprised. In fact, I was worse than surprised: I was horrified. One might argue that, though Jackson did indeed leave clues in clothing, in proximity of characters to each other, and vague inferences in dialogue, her clues were not crafted well enough to actually prepare readers for the conclusion. It is the writer's duty to provide effective clues so the reader does not feel betrayed. I'm not sure it can be said Jackson fulfilled this obligation. 

mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Perhaps one of the reasons that modern readers are so unsuspecting of the ending of Jackson's story is the fact that the word lottery connotes such happy consequences in contemporary times.  The older denotation of this word escapes those who now buy lottery tickets and play "Power Ball."

The pastoral descriptions of rural life, the farmer's talk--all such descriptions distracted me from the approaching horror, as well.

jihyunkim67 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I agree with most of the editors who responded above, especially with the response #7. Although it has been awhile since I read the story, I still remember how the ending completely threw me off. Perhaps Jackson did have foreshadowed the conclusion throughout the story but I was still surprised to find such shocking conclusion to a story that initially started with a peaceful and rustic description of a countryside.

pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I was completely surprised by this ending.  I completely agree with the previous post here.  The fact that Jackson makes it seem so normal makes you unprepared for the ending.  It's not like The Hunger Games, where you can tell that horrible things are going to happen from the start.

literaturenerd eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I had no clue that the story was going to end as it did. What upset me more was the fact that I completely missed all of the foreshadowing which Jackson embedded for readers. Jackson is, by far, one of the best at her craft.