Are there any similes and hyperboles in "The Lottery" by Shirley Jackson?

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mwestwood's profile pic

mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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With hyperbole meaning an exaggeration that is used for emphasis or effect, the entire story "The Lottery" can be considered a hyperbole.  For, the apparently simple story is actually an subtly inverted exaggeration of the underlying truth of Jackson's theme. Told with limited and banal description and without excessive emotionalism, Jackson's narrative points to the ordinariness of the cruel, violent, barbaric act of stoning that has somehow become a ritual.  


Bobby and Harry Jones and Dickie Delacroix....eventually made a great pile of stones in one corner of the square and guarded it against the raids of the other boys.

Bobby Martin dicked under his mother's grasping hand and ran, laughing, back to the pile of stones.

...Mr. Summers, who had time and energy to devote to civic activities.

There had been, also, a ritual salute, which the official of the loterry had had to use...

She [Tessie] tapped Mrs. Delacroix on the arm as a farewell

Mr. Summers waited with an expression of polite interest while Mrs. Dungar answered. 

"All right, folks," Mr. Summers said, "Let's finish quickly."

These examples exaggerate the seemingly simplicity of the annual ritual.

Also, with Jackson's limited description, there is a paucity of figurative language used.  Here is what could be found:

She tapped Mrs. Delacroix on the arm as a farewell.

"It's not [like is implied]the way it used to be," Old Man Warner said clearly.  "People ain't [like] the way they used to be."


 It is this lack of figurative language and its simple description which deceives the reader into believing Jackson's "The Lottery" a mild and simple tale.  But, it is the hyperbole, the exaggeration of this simplicity is what shocks the reader at the end.

literaturenerd's profile pic

literaturenerd | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

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I just reread the story, thinking that I did not rememeber any similes or hyperboles in "The Lottery". I did not find any.

I beleive that Chopin ommitted any use of this type of figurative language from her story (with the exception of foreshadowing) because of the action of the story.

"The Lottery" provides readers with a story which exemplifies the importance of tradition, sacrifice, and community. The story is not meant to be comparative or exaggerated because of the material presented.

Instead, active readers should pick up on the clues given that the lottery is, in fact, not necessarily a good thing to win. Socially, today, the lottery is a positive thing- here, it is by far something one would not like to "win".