In the story "The Lottery" by Shirley Jackson, what is one example of situational irony and what happened?

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William Delaney eNotes educator| Certified Educator

A good example of situational irony begins when Tessie Hutchinson arrives late for the drawing.

Just as Mr. Summers finally left off talking and turned to the assembled villagers, Mrs. Hutchinson came hurriedly along the path to the square, her sweater thrown over her shoulders, and slid into place in the back of the crowd. "Clean forgot what day it was," she said to Mrs. Delacroix, who stood next to her, and they both laughed softly. "Thought my old man was out back stacking wood," Mrs. Hutchinson went on. "and then I looked out the window and the kids was gone, and then I remembered it was the twenty-seventh and came a-running." She dried her hands on her apron, and Mrs. Delacroix said, "You're in time, though. They're still talking away up there."

Even though this lottery, as Mrs. Hutchinson well knows, is a grim business which will result in someone's death, she is anxious not to miss it. At least it provides a little excitement in this dull town. What is ironic is that Tessie doesn't have the slightest suspicion that she herself may be selected for the sacrifice this year. She actually laughs along with her neighbor Mrs. Delacroix. If there wasn't any risk involved, the lottery would not be such an exciting annual event. All the people in the community take an interest in the lottery. None of them thinks he or she might be the one to end up with the black spot. Mr. Dunbar, for instance, is unable to attend because he is laid up with a broken leg, but he is anxious to learn the result as soon as the drawing is over.

"Go tell your father," Mrs. Dunbar said to her older son.

Then the irony begins to dawn on the reader when Bill Hutchinson gets the black spot in the preliminary drawing, which is to select households. Immediately Tessie begins to realize the seriousness of the situation.

Suddenly. Tessie Hutchinson shouted to Mr. Summers. "You didn't give him time enough to take any paper he wanted. I saw you. It wasn't fair!"

It would have been fair enough, as far as she was concerned, if her husband had not drawn the black spot but somebody else had gotten it. Everybody else thinks it was completely fair--as long as they haven't gotten the black spot themselves.

"Be a good sport, Tessie." Mrs. Delacroix called, and Mrs. Graves said, "All of us took the same chance."

Tessie can see that someone in her family, possibly herself, is going to be selected. It could be her husband, her elder son Bill Junior, her daughter Nancy, or even her little boy Davie, who is too young to understand anything of what is going on.

The situation is ironic because she never expected this to happen--although it has to happen every year to somebody. Then when the Hutchinsons all draw slips in the second round of this strange lottery, Tessie gets the black spot. She refuses even to look at it. She lets her husband and her three children all open theirs and knows that she must be holding the black spot because all the others are blank.

"It isn't fair, it isn't right," Mrs. Hutchinson screamed, and then they were upon her.