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

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

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.  

e.g.

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.

edcon eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Similes are comparisons of dissimilar things using "like" or "as," and there are no obvious similes in Jackson's short story used as comparisons.

Although the narrative is mostly straightforward and the characters' emotions are mostly muted, there are a few hyperbolic, or exaggerated, statements made in "The Lottery."  As the tension builds in the moments leading up to the drawing of names, people in the crowd express their apprehension with nervous small talk, such as the hyperbole of Mrs. Delacroix's statement to Mrs. Graves: "Seems like there's no time at all between lotteries any more." 

When Mr. and Mrs. Adams quietly point out that the ritual of the lottery has been given up in nearby communities and is being considered in another, Old Man Warner's rejection of this idea is hyperbolic.  He calls the other communities a "pack of crazy fools," and conjectures "next thing you know, they'll be wanting to go back to living in caves, nobody work any more..." Giving up a barbaric and terrifying ritual with an unexplained and likely superstitious rationale can hardly be reasonably equated with abandoning civilized living and finding purpose in life. 

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The Lottery

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