What role do women play in the fictional town in "The Lottery"?

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William Delaney eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The women seem quite old-fashioned. One could imagine them all wearing ankle-length gingham dresses and sunbonnets. This is a patriarchal society, as we can see just from the way the lottery is conducted, with the men running the lottery and the men doing the drawings for the households. The females only draw when a household has been selected on the first round. Then each member of that household draws to see who gets the black spot. The other members of that household will join the rest of the townsfolk in stoning that individual to death. The women all appear to be housewives and many of them mothers. The young girls are meek and modest. They will all grow up to be housewives and mothers too. None of the women object to their subordinate condition. It has never occurred to them that a society could function any other way. An example of the prevailing female modesty and subservience is to be seen when a woman is compelled to draw for her husband, who is laid up at home with a broken leg. Mr. Summers asks:

"Don't you have a grown boy to do it for you, Janey?" Although Mr. Summers and everyone else in the village knew the answer perfectly well, it was the business of the official of the lottery to ask such questions formally. Mr. Summers waited with an expression of polite interest while Mrs. Dunbar answered.

"Horace's not but sixteen yet." Mrs. Dunbar said regretfully. "Guess I gotta fill in for the old man this year."

She is "regretful." She feels awkward and self-conscious because she does not like being the center of attention even for a few moments. And she does not think it is appropriate for her to be doing a "man's job." 

The only time a woman speaks out with emotion and conviction is when Tessie Hutchinson draws the black spot.

"It isn't fair," she said. A stone hit her on the side of the head...."It isn't fair, it isn't right," Mrs. Hutchinson screamed, and then they were upon her.