Why is the conclusion of The Lottery, a surprise?

Expert Answers
Doug Stuva eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Concerning the surprise ending of Jackson's "The Lottery," the ending is accomplished primarily by the use of an objective, detached point of view.  The people are acting normally in a normal-looking town, and that's all the information the narrator reveals to the reader.  Any other point of view would reveal too much information to maintain the surprise ending.  The lack of any thoughts being revealed, as well as the lack of any authorial intervention or explanation, enables the surprise ending to be effective.

Also, a small point, but I would refer to the stones being piled up, etc., as foreshadowing, rather than hinting.  Hinting implies that the writer is trying to get the reader to guess--in this case, to guess what's really going on.  And that's the last thing the story could afford.  Foreshadowing, in contrast, is not hint giving.  Foreshadowing gives the ending legitimacy once it occurs:  once the true nature of the lottery is revealed, it makes sense because the pile of stones and other details have previously been revealed.

pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The conclusion of this story is a surprise because, in my opinion, no one in their right mind would expect it given the setting and what has come before.

Look at how the lottery happens.  Everyone gathers, they're chatting in a friendly way with each other.  It is a beautiful day in a nice little village.  The villagers are about to do a lottery that has been a tradition for ages.  Who would expect that it's going to be something bad?

But then these nice people in a pleasant town start killing one of their neighbors.  I hope that's surprising...

epollock | Student

The conclusion is a definite surprise. However, there are many early hints about the outcome, such as the piles of stones (paragraph 2), the use of the black box (paragraph 5), the "sudden hush" (paragraph 19), the discussion of quitting the use of the lottery (paragraphs 31–34), and Tessie’s anxiety (paragraph 44 and elsewhere). Upon reading the conclusion, students will see that these hints may be read as expressing double meaning. These ordinary events and happenings portray a grim ironic reality of what is to come making the surprise that much darker and more searing in nature.

mkcapen1 | Student

The short story "The Lottery" gives the reader a false sense of rural tranquility as the narrator describes the farmer’s communication, the children gathering rocks, the rural scenery and the upcoming activity of the lottery.  People are hurrying towards the event as if it will be something good.  One is never old that something will be won but the title speaks for the idea of winning something good.

When Tessie is chosen to be the one to die, she receives no emotional response from the community remembers other than a sense of irritation at her complaints and disruption of the process.  They stone her to death and return to their activities like nothing happened.  The people’s acceptance of such a cruel fate administered by their own hands and their blank responses to their actions is really where the horror lies.