What is the significance of Mr.Summers and Mr.Graves in "The Lottery"?The lottery is carried on by Mr. Summers, who owns the coal company, and Mr. Graves, the postmaster. What do the names and the...

What is the significance of Mr.Summers and Mr.Graves in "The Lottery"?

The lottery is carried on by Mr. Summers, who owns the coal company, and Mr. Graves, the postmaster. What do the names and the objects hint at?

Asked on by leemcnamee

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literaturenerd's profile pic

literaturenerd | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

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The names of Mr. Graves and Mr. Summers are both important in Shirley Jackson's short story "The Lottery."

Mr. Summers name is one which adds irony to the story. The lottery takes place on June 27th. June falls into the summer months. As the story opens, the setting is described as a beautiful summer day.

The morning of June 27th was clear and sunny, with the fresh warmth of a full-summer day; the flowers were blossoming profusely and the grass was richly green.

Both the beautiful summer day and the name of Mr. Summers add irony to the story given that the outcome of the day will be anything but beautiful. Mr. Summers, the one who runs the lottery can be seen as the one who, somewhat, controls the impending death. He holds the box, he calls the names, and he makes sure the lottery moves as planned. His name contrasts what his position in the lottery is.

Mr. Graves' name offers something very different. One can look at his name as offering foreshadowing. What this means is that anyone who comes in contact with Graves, which all villagers do, will possibly die and end up in a grave.

andrewnightingale's profile pic

andrewnightingale | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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Mr Summers' name has obvious connotations. Summer is associated with warmth and pleasant times. It is a season of celebration, holidays and fun. Ironically, Mr Summers' name is contrasted to a task that signifies exactly the opposite. It is his duty to run the annual lottery which, in the end, results in a life being sacrificed. In this sense he is associated with a dark deed. Death is his purpose and he fully supports this seemingly purposeless, horrendous tradition. Mr Summers therefore represents a precise contradiction of what his name implies.

Furthermore, his association with coal emphasizes the contradiction. The darkness that coal mining is associated with stems from both its colour and the nature of mining. It is, in literal terms, a filthy job. Although he is the owner of the mine and does not get his hands dirty, the suggestion is clear. Mr Summers is executing a foul duty. By directing proceedings during the lottery, he becomes a symbol for what is to ensue: the death of an innocent individual. One person is stoned to death each year merely for being a member of a community that has decided to continue practising this disgusting ritual.

Mr Graves' name, in contrast, does not have the same positive connotations. The metaphor is much more direct in this instance. Graves are associated with death. This is where dead bodies are placed during burial. In addition, the word grave means grim and somber, which exactly describes the lottery. It is a joyless ceremony. Grave can, however, also mean dignified. Ironically, there is nothing dignified about the lottery. It is apparent that it is just something that has to be done. Most of what had been ceremonial about it, such as the recital, has been discarded over the years.

Mr Graves' task as postmaster ties in with his duty of handling the lottery slips and keeping the box. He is, to use a pun, "a man of letters." The contents of the letters that he manages might affect the destinies of those who bring and receive them, just as the slips he now handles can determine the fate of others. In this way he is symbolic as a harbinger of death.

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