In "The Lottery," what is the "procedure" of the lottery?

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Jonathan Beutlich eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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I like the fact that the question uses the word "procedure" to describe the lottery process in this story.  It is definitely a well defined procedure with steps needing to be done in a specific order.  The people may have forgotten why they do the lottery, but they definitely remember how to do the lottery.  

The people had done it so many times that they only half listened to the directions; most of them were quiet, wetting their lips, not looking around.

The lottery process starts at ten in the morning.  There is no set ending time, because that will change based on town size.  The people are gathered together by family.  Each family member sends a member forward to take a slip of paper out of the box.  It is usually the male head of the family that draws, but the wife can draw in the husband's absence.  The families are called in alphabetical order.  The folded papers are to remain folded until all of the families have drawn a piece of paper.  Everybody is to open the paper at the same time.  One of the papers will have a black dot on it.  That dot designates that family as the "lucky" family.  The paper with the black dot is put back into the box along with a white piece of paper for each member of the chosen family.  

"All right, then," Mr. Summers said. "Harry, you got their tickets back?"

Mr. Graves nodded and held up the slips of paper.

"Put them in the box, then," Mr. Summers directed. "Take Bill's and put it in."

Each family member then redraws a slip of paper. All papers are opened simultaneously, and the family member that drew the black dot paper is then stoned to death. 

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Lorna Stowers eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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While your explanation defines a limit to three to five sentences, a little background is necessary.

In Shirley Jackson's "The Lottery," the town's people are getting ready for their annual selection for the person who will be sacrificed for the good of the crops. This said, this event has been practiced for a very long time ("even before Old Man Warner, the oldest man in town, was born"). Therefore, the town is very familiar with the procedure the lottery follows (even though some question the procedure and continuing practice of it).


The town's people must gather by 10 o'clock on June 27th. Once gathered, the names of the male head-of-household are called. Each male must come forward and draw a slip of paper from the box placed upon a stool. After all households have drawn, all open their piece of paper looking for a black dot. Once found, the members of the family of the "winner" must draw; the family member holding the black dot will be stoned to death for the benefit of the crops.


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Gretchen Mussey eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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At ten o'clock in the morning on June 27th, the entire community gathers in the town square, where Mr. Summers and Mr. Graves proceed to conduct the lottery. Once everyone gathers, Mr. Summers addresses the community and asks if anyone is not participating in the lottery in order to decide who will draw for the missing person. Mr. Summers then calls the husband of each family in alphabetical order to draw a slip of paper from the ominous black box. In Jackson's patriarchal society, the oldest son draws in place of their father if he cannot participate for any reason. The head of each household is also required to keep their slip of paper folded until every husband draws from the black box.

Once each husband has drawn from the black box, Mr. Summers instructs them to look at their slip of paper simultaneously to determine who has the slip with the black spot on it. Whoever draws the black spot is required to call their family back to the black box, where each family member draws one slip of paper. The family member who ends up drawing the black spot becomes the community's scapegoat and is stoned to death by the entire town.

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