The Lottery Questions and Answers
by Shirley Jackson

The Lottery book cover
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Where you surprised by the big surprise in "The Lottery"?

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"The Lottery" does not seem intended to give the reader a big surprise. An awareness of the purpose of this lottery builds gradually. We see early in the story that a lot of the boys are collecting stones and that everybody seems serious and apprehensive. Then when Bill Hutchinson draws the slip with the black spot for his family and his wife makes such a strong protest, we begin to realize that someone in the Hutchinson family is going to die.

"I think we ought to start over," Mrs. Hutchinson said, as quietly as she could. "I tell you it wasn't fair. You didn't give him time enough to choose. Everybody saw that."

Mr. Graves had selected the five slips and put them in the box. and he dropped all the papers but those onto the ground. where the breeze caught them and lifted them off.

"Listen, everybody," Mrs. Hutchinson was saying to the people around her.

Mrs. Hutchinson, who had enjoyed a secure position as a member of this community, is beginning to be isolated. We sense that things are drawing to a close and that we ourselves have been so involved in the proceedings that it is as if we are going to have to participate in the finale.

Bill Hutchinson went over to his wife and forced the slip of paper out of her hand. It had a black spot on it, the black spot Mr. Summers had made the night before with the heavy pencil in the coal company office. Bill Hutchinson held it up, and there was a stir in the crowd

That black spot can mean only one thing. We may be just as guilty as everybody else.. We have the option of leaving before the end. We can close the book and never know what really happened. But we don't. We want to see for ourselves. Then when we finally turn away and leave these people to themselves and their humdrum daily lives, we will not think of reporting them to any authorities. We will be like Nick Adams in Ernest Hemingway's "The Killers," who tells George the counterman in the diner:

"I'm going to get out of this town," Nick said.
"Yes," said George. "That's a good thing to do."

The difference between "The Killers" and "The Lottery" is that we never know what happened to Ole Andreson, although we learn in exquisite detail what happened to Tessie Hutchinson. The story has not been building to any surprise ending but to a painful scene in which the entire town becomes a murderous mob and closes in on Tessie from all sides. Her own husband, her son Bill Jr., her daughter Nancy, and even tiny Davie Hutchinson are incluced in the mob intent on killing her. Shirley Jackson must have decided that there could not be such a denouement and a surprise ending as well. We are never surprised but only slowly and gradually enlightened.

"It isn't fair, it isn't right," Mrs. Hutchinson screamed, and then they were upon her.


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