What is the point of view in "The Lottery"?

"The Lottery" is narrated from the third-person objective point of view. The omniscient narrator who reports the story in an objective way without commenting on it. The emotional energy of the story emerges from the events it depicts, such as Tessie's response to "winning" the lottery.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Shirley Jackson narrates her celebrated short story "The Lottery" using third-person objective narration. Unlike third-person omniscient narration, the objective perspective creates distance between the audience and the characters in the story. By utilizing third-person objective narration, the audience does not know the inner thoughts of each character and can only derive information regarding the characters' feelings and emotions by studying their behavior and dialogue. Third-person objective narration is also impersonal and neutral. Essentially, the audience is observing the brutal, outdated ritual and the citizens' reactions from an unbiased perspective.

By utilizing a third-person objective narrator, Jackson presents the horrific details of the lottery and allows the audience to draw their own conclusions regarding the violent ritual. It also preserves the mystery of the lottery, which is essential to the dramatic impact of the story. If Jackson were to utilize a third-person omniscient narrator, the audience would have access to each citizens' thoughts and understand the true nature of the lottery from the beginning of the story. The third-person objective narration forces the audience to pay close attention to the behaviors and attitudes of the characters, which foreshadows the dramatic ending.

Utilizing third-person limited narration would present a similar reading experience but the interpretation of the story could be different. For example, telling the story strictly from Tessie's point of view would present a biased perspective of the lottery. Therefore, Jackson's decision to use third-person objective narration allows the audience to form their own opinions of the story, individually interpret the author's message, and apply various elements of the story to their own society.

Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

"The Lottery," by Shirley Jackson, is told from the point of view of an objective, third person narrator. Let's explore what this means.

In the third person narrative, there are different options as to how the narrator will tell the story.

Whatever the narrator decides, the narrative in third person stems from the principle that the narrator is not involved in the story. The narrator is unattached.

Therefore, the narrator refers to the main characters by name, or by using the "he" or "she" pronouns when speaking about them. This is because narrator is not a part of the story.

However, in the third person narrative, there are also subcategories.

  • A limited third person narrator can tell you what the characters are thinking and feeling.
  • An objective third person will tell you nothing about feelings or thoughts. Instead, the reader will have to figure out why the main character does or feel the way she/he does.  
  • Then, there is the all-knowing, omniscient third person, who will tell you how everything happens and how characters feel. It will be revealed to you either completely, or partially. It is up to the narrator. 

Readers who love Shirley Jackson's "The Lottery," often wish the narrative was limited third person, or at least partially omniscient, in order to know what in the world goes on in the minds of the villagers. Do they feel sorry for what they do? Are they aware of the barbaric nature of their lottery? Do the Hutchinson's feel any grief or loss?

We cannot answer these questions, which is part of what makes "The Lottery" such an intriguing story. Hence, it is safe to argue that the point of view in the story is an objective, third person narrative.  

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

The point of view in this story is the third-person point of view. That means the narrator is not one of the characters in the story. The narrator uses pronouns such as "he," "she," and "they." The narrator of this story is also telling the story from the omniscient point of view. The narrator is capable of jumping from person to person and group to group. That allows readers to experience descriptions from a wide, overview perspective, and it allows readers to essentially eavesdrop on various conversations as if we are a part of them. This perspective allows readers to feel as if we are a part of the lottery while at the same time being separate from its procedures.

The third-person perspective is important for this story because it allows the narration to describe the lottery in a natural sequence. If the story were told from Tessie Hutchinson's perspective, for example, readers might be alerted early to the true nature of the annual lottery.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

The third person point of view allows readers to be a fly on the wall of a story. This is of extreme value in Jackson's The Lottery because of the dramatic contrast between the normal routine of society and the actual outcome of the purpose of the lottery. If the point of view was different, for example a first person point of view, value or bias or judgment would be involved and inserted in their narration. This would potentially give away what the lottery is, and that is not Jackson's intention, she relies on the element of surprise.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

"The Lottery" is told from the point of view of a third-person omniscient narrator who stands "above" the action, observing the scene without being part of it. It is as if they are the cameraman, videotaping what is going on.

The story starts with the narrator describing—or "filming" for us—the beautiful June day in which the villagers assemble for the lottery. Their camera's eye roves from the blossoming flowers to the piles of stones they schoolboys have made.

The narrator, being omniscient, or all seeing, can also fill us in on the history of the lottery and the black box that represents it, telling us that the ritual began almost as soon as the village was established centuries ago. We learn through them that the box holding the lottery tickets needs to be replaced and that it travels to different locations, such as the post office and the grocery store, to be stored. The narrator also "eavesdrops" and reports on the conversations among the crowd, including rumors that other villages nearby have abandoned their lotteries.

The narrator always uses a neutral, objective voice, reporting what is going on without offering their opinion on it. They stand back and lets us witness what is unfolding. Despite the narrator's unemotional tone, anticipation builds as readers wait to find out what, exactly, the lottery is. In the end, much of the emotional energy and horror of the story emerges not from the narrator but from Tessie Hutchinson's—and our own—reaction to this terrifying event.

Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on
Soaring plane image

We’ll help your grades soar

Start your 48-hour free trial and unlock all the summaries, Q&A, and analyses you need to get better grades now.

  • 30,000+ book summaries
  • 20% study tools discount
  • Ad-free content
  • PDF downloads
  • 300,000+ answers
  • 5-star customer support
Start your 48-Hour Free Trial