What is the plot of the story "The Lottery" by Shirley Jackson?

The plot of "The Lottery" involves the selection of a lottery "winner" out of the residents of a small fictitious town. The "winner" will be sacrificed to ensure that the year's crops are good.

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This is one lottery that you would NOT want to win. The premise of this chilling story is that every year, residents of a small fictional town in New England gather in their town square to take part in a “lottery.” What we are not told up front is that this is not a lottery in which there is money to be won.. One person is to be selected to be sacrificed in accordance with the bizarre belief that this will lead to a bountiful harvest.

On lottery day, we are told that the children arrive first and start collecting stones, but we are not told at first that these stones will be used to stone the lottery “winner” to death. Soon, the adults arrive and the children are called to stand with their families. Proceedings start with officials listing each household present, as well as each member of each household.

In the first round of this lottery, one person designated as the head of each family must draw a slip of paper, and no one may look at their slip until each family has drawn one. One of the pieces of paper is marked, and it is from whichever family has the marked piece of paper that the “winner” will come. This time around, it is the Hutchinson family’s “lucky” day.

Five pieces of paper (one marked) are placed back into the box and each member of the Hutchinson family must draw again to see who ultimately lottery winner will be. It is Tessie Hutchinson who has the marked paper, and the story concludes with the villages advancing on her with the stones that the children had been collecting at the beginning of the story.

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Exposition: Everyone in the small New England village gathers at the end of June each year for the lottery. The audience is not informed as to why the lottery is held each year but is intrigued as the children gather stones and families stand next to each other. Mr. Summers is in charge of running the lottery, and Jackson provides some background details concerning the foreboding black box, which is presented in front of the community. Despite Mr. Summers's attempts to replace the old black box, the community does not want to mess with tradition and decides to keep it. Old Man Warner complains about how some villages have stopped participating in the lottery and is depicted as an opponent of progress and change. Tessie Hutchinson also arrives late to the lottery and takes her place beside her family. Mr. Summers then tells the villagers to not look at their slips until instructed and the heads of each household are called to retrieve their slips of paper from the black box.

Conflict: When the villagers look at their pieces of paper, Bill Hutchinson discovers that he is holding the slip with the black dot on it. His wife, Tessie, immediately complains that the drawing is not fair because Bill did not have enough time to choose his slip.

Rising Action: The entire Hutchinson family is told to place their five slips back into the black box for a second drawing. The tension builds as the reader wonders which member will draw the slip with the ominous black dot.

Climax: After each family member draws and opens their slips, Tessie discovers that she is holding the piece of paper with the black dot in the middle.

Falling Action: Tessie Hutchinson begins to scream and complain that the lottery is not fair as the other villagers begin to gather stones.

Resolution: The villagers rush towards Tessie and begin throwing stones at her. A stone strikes Tessie in the head as Old Man Warner encourages the villagers to hurl more stones at the defenseless woman.

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Shirley Jackson's "The Lottery" is a classic story of what could happen when people follow a tradition for no other reason than it is a tradition. Blindly following what has been done in the past without questioning why leads to one horrible death every year in a fictional town in New England. 

At the beginning of the story, the nature of the lottery that is to be held that day is not revealed to the reader. It is a special day in the town. Everyone gathers in the town square as conversations happen that show that this is an event that has been happening for many years, long enough for some of the older citizens to complain that changes have happened in the way the lottery is done. Children are excited, but some people are nervous. When it is time for the lottery the two men in charge, Mr. Summers and Mr. Graves, make sure that each family from the town is present or represented. The head of each family then comes forward and draws a slip of paper from a black box. Bill Hutchinson has drawn the one slip with a black spot. His wife, Tessie, complains that the drawing was not fair, but the townspeople tell her to be a good sport. All the members of the Hutchinson family then have to select slips, and Tessie draws the one with the black spot. The townspeople then proceed to stone her to death. No concrete explanation is given for why this is done; it is just something the towns in the area have been doing for a long time, and it is not questioned. It is a chilling story as it is such an ordinary day in an ordinary town until the citizens brutally murder an innocent woman.

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