The Lottery Questions and Answers
by Shirley Jackson

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What is the central conflict in "The Lottery?"

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William Delaney eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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A story must be dramatic in order to be interesting. It must contain conflict in order to be dramatic. "The Lottery" is certainly interesting, so it must be dramatic and must contain conflict--but it is very hard to see how there is any conflict between any of the characters or any institutions. For instance, there is no interaction between Old Man Warner and Tessie Hutchinson. They don't even talk to each other. When Warner does talk he does not sound like a protagonist but like a parrot mindlessly repeating what he heard others saying long ago.

I suggest that the main conflict in the story is between abstract principles and not between characters. The conflict might be described as past versus present, tradition versus enlightenment, superstition versus reason, or ignorance versus truth. The protagonist in this conflict would be the past, or tradition, or superstition, or ignorance. The antagonist would be the simple truth, including the truth that human sacrifice doesn't make the corn grow.

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Asher Wismer eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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reneef79 | Student

Central conflict describes the main conflict in any story. Central conflict usually comes in several forms. However, the form displayed in “The Lottery” is Man versus Society. In a Man versus Society conflict, the main character is not in sync with the other characters in the story. Tess, the main character in this story, made it obvious that she was different from the other women in the village. Tess was the only woman not present at the village gathering. In fact, she arrived late and shortly before the lottery began. Also, it was obvious the other people in the village saw the lottery as one of the most important events of the year. However, Tess was home cleaning and did not know where her husband or children were. Tess’ behavior before, during, and after the lottery drawing evidences her inability to adjust to the norms of the society in which she lived.