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In Ralph Waldo Emerson's essay "Self-Reliance," he writes of the "opium of custom," a metaphor for the continuance of opinions and actions simply because they have previously been done by others of the same culture. With respect to Shirley Jackson's short story, there is also this "opium of custom." It is expressed by Old Man Warner who calls all those who believe in discontinuing the lottery "A pack of crazy fools," employing a more simplified metaphor than that of Emerson, certainly. However, the unstated comparison is apparent between the dissenters of the ritual and a group of foolish people who will want to live in caves and not work, as Mr. Warner elaborates.
Earlier, in the second paragraph the author Jackson commences the rising action of the plot with these words,
School was recently over for the summer, and the feeling of liberty sat uneasily on most of them.
The phrase "the feeling of liberty" is both ironic and metaphoric. The license to stone one of the villagers is being compared to "liberty" in a metaphor, or unstated comparison. And, the phrase is an example of situational irony because an event is about to occur that is directly contrary to the expectations of readers at this point.
Stated comparison between two unlike things using either like or as, similes are not prevalent in this story. One phrase that appears as a comparison between two unlike actions is this line from the ninth paragraph about Mrs. Hutchinson in which tapping on the arm is compared to a farewell,
She tapped Mrs. Delacroix on the armas a farewell and began to make her way through the crowd.
Ms. Jackson does not make use of much figurative language, choosing instead to use simplified language in order to disarm readers regarding the horrific ending.
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