In Shirley Jackson's "The Lottery," how does the point of view in the story preserve the story’s suspense?
The point of view in "The Lottery" is third person. The extremely objective narrator does not delve into the minds of any of the characters or give insight into their feelings; rather he merely reveals the process of the lottery as it unfolds.
Jackson uses the narrator to heighten suspense, as the reader of the story only has the information provided by the outward events of the lottery. This style of narration forces the reader to take a more active, engaged role in the reading, to gather clues and possible indicators of what is to come. The objective point of view guides the reader into role as observer; it is up to he/she to decide the meaning of the ubiquitous black box or why the villagers seem so nervous about the drawing of the slips.
The point of view absolutely preserves suspense. If the story had been told from one of the villagers, or third person omniscient, it would have ruined the 'surprise' ending. Jackson's use of point of view keeps readers on the edge of their seats until the grisly ending, which is exactly as she intended.
Shirley Jackson tells the story using a third person narrator in order to preserve the story's suspense. Instead of writing from an omniscient third person point of view, Jackson discloses the purpose of the lottery and does not address why individuals are becoming anxious as they pick from the mysterious black box. If the story was narrated in the first person, that character would openly express why they have feelings of trepidation while picking from the box. Characters narrating the story would also give further insight into the purpose of the lottery which would again ruin the suspense. An omniscient third person narrator would reveal that the names being drawn from the black box indicate who will be stoned to death. Using a third person narrator allows Jackson to describe the environment and give subtle clues as to what the lottery is about without revealing its purpose.