What is the irony of the trite dialogue and casual tone of "The Lottery"?

Expert Answers
accessteacher eNotes educator| Certified Educator

By the time you have finished this terrifying and scary story, we realise as readers how we have been deceived and manipulated by the author. From the very beginning of this excellent modern Gothic classic, we are led to believe that we are being presented with a normal village fete scene and normal villagers, whilst all the time something much more sinister lurks beneath the innocent demeanour of the characters. An excellent example of how we are deceived can be found in the way that Tessie Hutchinson is introduced. As the villagers gather for the lottery, the nature of which we are unsure of, Tessie Hutchinson arrives late, and her arrival is described in the following way:

She tapped Mrs. Delacroix on the arm as a farewell and began to make her way through the crowd. The people separated good-humouredly to let her through; two or three people said, in voices just loud enough to be heard across the crowd, "Here comes your Missis, Hutchinson," and "Bill, she made it after all." Mrs. Hutchinson reached her husband, and Mr. Summers, who had been waiting, said cheerfully, "Thought we wre going to have to get on without you, Tessie." Mrs. Hutchinson said, grinning, "Wouldn't have me leave m'dishes in the sink, now, would you Joe?," and soft laughter ran through the crowd as the people stirred back into position after Mrs. Hutchinson's arrival.

Note the way that the inclusion of "soft laughter" and the way that the people separate in a "good humour" to let Tessie through, and the kind of witty joke that Tessie makes to Mr. Summers clearly makes us believe that this is a perfectly innocent village meeting. It is only at the end of the story that we realise the sinister purpose of this gathering, and the tragic role that Tessie herself will play in it. The dialogue and casual tone is one of the principal ways in which Jackson achieves this masterful act of deception.