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Shirley Jackson's "The Lottery" begins with a description of what appears to be a wonderful, festive day. Everything is green and growing, bright and sunny, and the people who have gathered are happy to be there.
[I]n some towns there were so many people that the lottery took two days and had to be started on June 2th. but in this village, where there were only about three hundred people, the whole lottery took less than two hours, so it could begin at ten o'clock in the morning and still be through in time to allow the villagers to get home for noon dinner.
Everything just seems so normal, and the fact that the entire town has gathered on this festive day makes the lottery sound like something wonderful. The title, of course, suggests good luck and winning, words we associate with the lottery. (In fact, when things go particularly well for us, we say we feel as if we won the lottery.)
Jackson obviously intended the title of the story and the naming of this ritual, a lottery, to suggest something positive. In fact, she lumps it in with all kinds of fun, harmless, innocuous things, as in the following description:
The lottery was conducted--as were the square dances, the teen club, the Halloween program--by Mr. Summers. who had time and energy to devote to civic activities.
It takes readers awhile to realize that things are not as the author suggested, but from the title and first few paragraphs the readers are led to believe that whoever wins this lottery will be happy. Of course by the end of the story we know better.
The title "The Lottery" is a foreshadowing of the kind of drawing or lottery that will take place near the end of the story. This title does not have an inherent positive or negative connotation. Upon first reading the story, the reader perceives the title as having a fairly neutral meaning.
As the story progresses the reader discovers that this lottery is conducted in the same manner as all other ordinary town activities. This nonchalant attitude of the town members sharply contrasts from their grotesque and shocking behavior when it is revealed that the lottery is a sacrifice of one of the individuals in the town. What is the most disturbing about this practice is that it has become so embedded in the culture of the village and is passed to newer generations(Mrs. Hutchinson's own baby son helps stone her). The neutral nature of the title emphasizes how these individuals have become desensitized to the horrific actions they are committing.
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