Shirley Jackson's "The Lottery" is run by two men named Graves and Summers. What significance can you see in the choices of names?   

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Graves is a very appropriate name for the man who helps to organize the lottery, as the "winner" will end up going to their grave. Mr. Graves's surname, a surname with connotations of death, indicates that this is no ordinary lottery with no ordinary "prize." The name Summers gives us a further clue as to what kind of event this is. The denizens of this small New England town are engaged in a pagan summer ritual, an act of human sacrifice designed to ensure a bountiful harvest.

One could argue, then, that the surnames of Graves and Summers each indicate something about the ritual. The Summers name tells us what time of year the ritual takes place, giving us an inkling into the sunny, carnival-like atmosphere that descends upon the town in late June. Whereas the name of Graves hints darkly at the sinister purpose of this annual event.

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Author Shirley Jackson obviously chose many of the names of her characters for symbolic purposes. Mr. Graves, one of the officials of the lottery, has the responsibility of maintaining the black box in which the names of the villagers are drawn. The "winning" name will tragically signify which person will be stoned--and sent to their grave. His wife, Mrs. Graves, is right up front when the stones begin to fly. The richest man in town, Joe Summers is the head of the all-important lottery, which takes place on June 27th--in the early summer, hence his own name. Other names serve symbolic purposes:

  • Tessie Hutchinson is based on the Puritan woman Anne Hutchinson (1591-1643), who was tried as a heretic and banished (but not stoned or burned) from Massachusetts colony for her religious beliefs.
  • Dickie Delacroix's name is French for "of the cross."
  • Old Man Warner constantly "warns" the villagers of the importance of the lottery--making him a "warner."
  • The Adams' are the first family to draw from the box--symbolic of the first man created by God.
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