In what way does the setting affect "The Lottery?"

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Jane Ames eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Jackson's first order of business when writing "The Lottery" was to depict the setting. The first few lines of the story read:

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. The people of the village began to gather in the square, between the post office and the bank....

This portrays an utterly recognizable environment to the average American reader. We envision a pleasant, pretty, quaint village. The "clear and sunny" weather further magnifies the setting's small-town charm and beauty. Two points are accomplished by setting the story in such a place.

First, the setting has a strong chance of resonating with the reader, perhaps even harkening to our own hometown. This immediately instills a set of expectations and a certain level of investment in the story. We believe we understand what we can recognize and are, perhaps, more inclined to care about the outcome of the story being told. In turn, we can imagine this story taking place in our own communities, which makes the overall theme that much more potent.

Secondly, the picturesque setting of the small village poses a sharp contrast—or juxtaposition—to the tension and grisly violence of the lottery itself. Yet, somehow, this is a time-honored tradition for this town and fits in perfectly into the fabric of the community. This sends a poignant message to the reader about the nature of ignorance and violence. We all have the capacity for great wrongdoing; it can take place in the most pleasant or mundane circumstances. In this way, the setting frames an important conversation about the insidious way such wrongdoing (perhaps even "evil") can establish itself in our own lives.

literaturenerd eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The setting of "The Lottery" is important in the story based upon the contrast it sets in regards to what the day is to bring. The setting (time and place) of the story takes place on a sunny morning, late in June (the 27th to be exact). The blooming flowers and green grass sets up readers for a peaceful and tranquil day. The setting is compounded as the villagers' actions are described. The children are playing, the men are speaking of planting and rain, and the women gossip. Nothing seems out of place for the beautiful day they have gathered for.

That said, the end of "The Lottery" contrasts greatly to the beautiful day presented by the author (Shirley Jackson). In the end, the villagers stone Tessie Hutchinson, the "winner" of the lottery. The beauty of the day has been crushed by the reason for the gathering--death.

Another poignant fact regarding the setting is the idea that the village's identity fails to be identified. Many readers, specifically those in farm towns, can identify with the village. The men gathering and speaking about farming, the women gossiping, and the children playing in the dirt all speak to similar activities found in farming towns all over the world. Essentially, the openness of the setting allows readers to relate to the story in such a way that they can realize it (the lottery) could happen in any idyllic town.

Therefore, the setting of "The Lottery" affects the story given the great contradiction it sets up for readers.