What type of diction is used in the story "The Lottery".

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kcoleman2016 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Diction is the word choice used in a piece of literature. Depending on the scholar, some people also choose to include syntax within the idea of diction. Syntax is the construction of sentence, including its length, order of words, and use of punctuation. 

In "The Lottery", the diction evolves over the course of the story to develop the changing tone. In the beginning, before the reader realizes anything is wrong, the diction is fully of rich imagery with long, flowing syntax. For example, the very first sentence: "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" (Jackson 1). The reader can see, smell, and feel the scene, and the sentence is full of clauses and phrases neatly knitted together with a semicolon. 

However, as the reader slowly realizes that something is wrong with the situation, the diction shifts with the mood. The moment of transition comes with Mr. Summers' commencement: "'Well now,' Mr. Summers said soberly, 'guess we better get started, get this over with, so's we can go back to work. Anybody ain't here?'" (Jackson 2). The only description in the scene is of Mr. Summers, who is speaking 'soberly'. The syntax, while still long, is jagged and disjointed by the pauses forced by the commas. 

In the moments of highest tension, each paragraph is a single line long with no description at all, forcing the reader to experience the moment at the same pace as a person living through the scene. However, at the end, when the ceremony is concluding and ending well (for everyone except Mrs. Hutchinson), some description re-enters the diction, indicating that everything is starting to return to normal. 

Karen P.L. Hardison eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The diction Jackson chooses for "The Lottery" can be described as concrete in type, which means words are specific, not abstract and general. An example of Jackson's concrete type of diction is the early quotation: "the flowers were blossoming profusely and the grass was richly green." This is not a figurative passage building a metaphor; this is a concrete statement about the blooming flowers and the green grass. It is a statement triggering rich imagery, but it is concrete, not abstract or figurative imagery.

In Jackson's story, the diction level is conversational, also called informal. This informal level is the diction level of educated people engaged in ordinary conversation; the grammar is correct and the ideas may be simple or complex or elegant or ordinary, but the diction level is that of daily conversation. An example of this informal level of conversational diction is the quotation: "The people of the village began to gather in the square, between the post office and the bank, around ten o'clock." This quotation reflects a conversational observation about the goings on in town on a fresh, green morning. 

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The Lottery

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