What signs are there in "The Lottery" by Shirley Jackson that the town is preparing for a stoning? The Lottery by shirley Jackson

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Kristen Lentz | Middle School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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From the very beginning of "The Lottery," Shirley Jackson's plan for the end of the story is made evident through her use of detail and dialogue.  Little clues foreshadow the afternoon's unfortunate events to come.

The first ominous detail occurs in the opening paragraph as the narrator mentions that "Bobby Martin had already stuffed his pockets full of stones and the other boys soon followed his example, selecting the smoothest and roundest stones."  This might not have been such a telling act if the boys had done so at the lake, but the narrator informs the reader that the boys "made a great pile of stones in one corner of the square," a detail which raises questions as to the stones' intended usage.  This detail is the most direct reference to the stoning in the short story, up until the point that the villagers actually stone Tessie to death.

As the story progresses, Mr. Summers arrives carrying the strange black box, which the reader must guess is part of the unknown lottery system.  Now, if the lottery were a happier occasion that people looked forward to, his arrival might have been met with a cheer; however, the villagers' deference and uneasy attitudes are revealed by their lack of eager reaction, only a "murmur of conversation" occurs upon its arrival.  Moreover, the villagers "kept their distance" from the black box, not wanting to get too close as if it were infectious with some deadly disease. 

When the lottery commences with the drawing of the names, the townspeople's unease increases, made obvious by their reactions to the proceedings.  When Janie Dunbar must draw for her husband, Clyde, she does so "regretfully," because her son is not old enough to draw for the family. 

Finally, Tessie's reaction when Bill's slip has the dark spot signifying they have 'won' the lottery is the most telling.  She shouts and yells, her visible reactions confirm the reader's suspicion that something dreadful is about to happen; the reader may be unclear on specifics, like a stoning, but knows that a terrible event will unfold. 

 

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