The Lottery Setting

What is the setting in "The Lottery" by Shirley Jackson?

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Kristen Lentz eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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The setting of "The Lottery" has all the appearance of being a wholesome small town in rural America.  Through imagery and detail, like "the flowers were blooming profusely, and the grass was richly green," Jackson conveys a pastoral feeling of a gentle summer.  The men speak of tractors and farming, and the women wear "faded house dresses and sweaters." 

Only as Jackson develops the events occurring at the town square does the reader begin to question the premise of the story; the reader begins to wonder why exactly do the boys fill their pockets with large stones and what the purpose of the ancient black box is.  Jackson's use of setting in "The Lottery" is one of the greatest assets to the story; by creating a perfectly normal looking town, Jackson makes the gruesome stoning in the end seem even more horrific and disturbing, primarily because the citizens and setting were portrayed to be so average and common place.  Through the use of setting in "The Lottery," Jackson argues that blindly following tradition can make even the most innocent seeming of small towns seem monstrous.

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blacksheepunite eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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The setting of the story is important because it helps create the ironic tension between what the inhabitants should be like and how they actually are.

1. The setting is a "modern" small town for Jackson's time, with a traditional belief system. The beliefs are archaic, however, so the juxtaposition of the happy town, where people gather at street corners to talk of "planting and rain, tractors and taxes", with the ritual sacrifice is the first ironic contrast in the setting.

2. A second important aspect of the setting is that it occurs during the summer, less than a week after midsummer, the summer solstice (when the sun appears to stand still, and when the sun is highest and longest in the sky); midsummer was a time when people gathered together to celebrate the sun and its life-giving power. Yet the ritual the townspeople perform is a stoning. (Biblical allusions abound-the sun/son, life vs original sin and throwing the first stone)

3. The physical...

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