What are the climax, falling action and resolution of "The Lottery" by Shirley Jackson?

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Karen P.L. Hardison eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The climax of "The Lottery" comes when the sacrifice to a worn and faded tradition is selected in the lottery; Tessie is the one selected:

"Tessie," Mr. Summers said. There was a pause, and then Mr. Summers looked at Bill Hutchinson, and Bill unfolded his paper and showed it. It was blank.

"It's Tessie," Mr. Summers said, and his voice was hushed. "Show us her paper. Bill."

Bill Hutchinson went over to his wife and forced the slip of paper out of her hand. It had a black spot on it, .... Bill Hutchinson held it up, and there was a stir in the crowd.

The falling action, which shows the consequences of the climax (and in a short story may be very brief) begins with Summer's instruction: ""All right, folks." Mr. Summers said. "Let's finish quickly."" It continues until people are all in possession of stones:

The children had stones already. And someone gave little Davy Hutchinson few pebbles.

It might be deemed that the next paragraph muddies the water, so to speak, between falling action and resolution. Jackson might have gone directly to the resolution at "Mrs. Hutchinson screamed, and then they were upon her," but chose instead to precede this with a paragraph in which the actions of characters clarify her authorial perspective. She thus draws out the moral of the story through dramatic reactions, satirical comment, and ironic juxtaposition though the following points:

  1. Tessie calls out, "It isn't fair.'
  2. The final resolution is hinted at when a prematurely thrown stone hits her head.
  3. Old man Warner, the antagonistic voice of blind adherence to form without reason, presents what is a heinous position: "Come on, come on, everyone."
  4. Steve Adams, the earlier spokesperson for ending the lottery ("over in the north village they're talking of giving up the lottery"), positioned himself in the fore-guard of the advancing villagers: "Steve Adams was in the front of the crowd of villagers, ...."

After thus clarifying her authorial opinion about blind superstition and belief, Jackson comes to the resolution in which the villagers descend upon her with the stones, all following the path of the first stone in the preceding paragraph: '"It isn't fair, it isn't right," Mrs. Hutchinson screamed, and then they were upon her."

bartonhccsd eNotes educator| Certified Educator
The climax of the story is the drawing of the slips of paper and the "winner" Tessie was discovered. The falling action occured as the town gathered around Tessie to give her her "winnings" of being stoned to death. The resolution is when we leave the town, tradition completed, life returning to normal, and Tessie dead.



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The Lottery

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