In what ways are the characters differentiated from one another, and why is Tessie Hutchinson singled out as the scapegoat in "The Lottery"?
In Shirley Jackson's disturbing story, the characters are differentiated from one another by their attitudes about the lottery. And, while there are some points that may be interpreted as suggestive of Tessie's being "singled out," the only substantial evidence for Tessie Hutchinson's selection as the scapegoat is the random drawing done by her husband, Bill Hutchinson.
On the day of the traditional lottery, the boys hurriedly fill their pockets with stones and some form huge piles of them, while the girls stand apart as they talk among themselves. The smallest children roll in the dust or hold tightly to the hand of an older sibling.
When the men gather, they talk quietly and uneasily among themselves; they merely smile at a joke, rather than laugh. The women exchange tidbits of gossip; then they call their children to them and take their place beside the head of their family.
Bringing with him an old black box, Mr. Summers, who directs the lottery, calls everyone to order and sets the box upon a stool. He asks someone to hold the box steady while he mixes the papers inside. As he turns to the assembled villagers, Mrs. Hutchinson scurries to her place in the crowd. She tells Mrs. Delacroix, "Clean forgot what day it was" (until she saw her family gone) "...then I remembered it was the twenty-seventh and came a-running." Quickly, she searches for her husband and children. She taps Mrs. Delacroix as a good-bye gesture and makes her way to her family, as Mr. Summers calls out "cheerfully,"
"Thought we were going to have to get on without you, Tessie."
"Wouldn't have me leave m'dishes in the sink, now, would you, Joe?" and soft laughter ran through the crowd as the people stirred back into position after Mrs. Hutchinson's arrival.
Mr. Summers begins and calls out the names of the heads of the families. When "Hutchinson" is called, Tessie urges her husband to "Get up there" perhaps to not have another delay caused by her family. Still, "people near her laughed."
As others wait, they speak of the tradition of this lottery. Mr. Adams tells Old Man Warner that the people in the north village have discontinued it. Warner replies, "Pack of crazy fools." He derides these villagers, saying they must want to return to caves.
"Used to be a saying, 'Lottery in June, corn be heavy soon....There's always been a lottery."
All the men select a white slip of folded paper which they keep folded until Mr. Summers gives them the word to open it. When they do, the women ask, "Who is it?" "Who's got it?" until voices say, "It's Hutchinson. It's Bill."
Hearing her husband's name, Tessie dissents,
"You didn't give him time enough to take any paper he wanted. I saw you. It wasn't fair!"
But, Mrs. Delacroix scolds her, "Be a good sport, Tessie....All of us took the same chance." Even her husband tells her to "Shut up," lest she draw attention to them.
After this, Mr. Sommers has Bill Hutchinson draw; Mrs. Hutchinson wants her daughter Eva and her husband Don to have their names added in this box, but she is told that daughters go with their husbands' families.
Again, Tessie grumbles and rebels, "It wasn't fair." She wants the lottery to start over,
"I tell you it wasn't fair. You didn't give him enough time to choose. Everybody saw that."
But, her words are ignored as Mr. Graves places the names of the Hutchinsons into the box that is now emptied of the others. Still, Tessie protests, "Listen, everybody...." But, no one says anything. So, one by one the Hutchinsons must draw from the box to learn which of them is the scapegoat. When it is her turn, Tessie hesitates, then looks around with defiance. Making a grimace, she marches up to the box and snatches a paper out and holds it behind her.
Having watched her carefully, Mr. Warner grumbles,
"It's not the way it used to be....People ain't the way they used to be."
Then, one by one, the Hutchinsons open their papers. After Mr. Hutchinson opens his and it is blank, Mr. Summers says in a hushed voice, "It's Tessie....Show us her paper, Bill." Bill has to force the paper from Tessie's hand, but he compliantly holds it up as the crowd stirs. Mr. Summers urges, "Let's finish quickly!"
Made to stand in a cleared space, Tessie pleads desperately as she holds out her hands, "It ain't fair, it isn't right." Stones whiz at her.
Tessie Hutchinson certainly rebels against the lottery and the unfairness of her having been randomly chosen to be slaughtered, thus raising the disapproval of Old Man Warner and others who blindly follow this tradition. Nevertheless, it seems that the drawing of her name as the scapegoat is purely random.