The Lottery Characters
by Shirley Jackson

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The Lottery Characters

The main characters in “The Lottery” are Tessie Hutchinson, Mr. Summers, Mr. Graves, Bill Hutchinson.

  • Tessie Hutchinson, Bill’s wife, draws the second black dot and is stoned to death by her fellow villagers.
  • Mr. Summers is the town official who conducts the lottery and brings out the black box full of paper slips.
  • Mr. Graves, the postmaster, brings the stool for the black box to the town square.
  • Bill Hutchinson draws the first black dot. Because he is the head of his household, this triggers a second round of drawings for his family.

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Shirley Jackson's "The Lottery" includes a large number of characters for being a short story. From Mr. Summers and Mr. Graves, who contrast one another, to Mrs. Delacroix and Mrs. Dunbar, many characters exhibit simple behaviors and motivations. Because of this, each in their turn reinforces themes in the story as Tessie's fate is revealed.

Tessie Hutchinson

Tessie Hutchinson is the main character of Shirley Jackson's “The Lottery.” She is an outspoken mother of three. Unlike the other women in the town, Tessie seems to play a more active role in her marriage. She calls out to her husband as he goes up to draw a lot, which draws laughter from the rest of the crowd. Tessie is also the only character in the short story to verbally express dissatisfaction with the lottery system.

Tessie’s family name, Hutchinson, alludes to the 17th-century religious dissenter Anne Hutchinson. Just as Anne sought to reform her religious community, Tessie seeks to undermine the lottery, suggesting the results are not fair. However, both women are punished for their transgressive attitudes: Anne was excommunicated and exiled, and Tessie is killed.

Tessie can be interpreted in a variety of ways. One interpretation positions her as hypocritical and selfish. From the moment she enters the story, Tessie is disruptive. She arrives late and forces everyone to accommodate her presence as she moves to the front of the crowd. After the results of the first round of the lottery are revealed, she immediately calls for a redo. Tessie proves that she is willing to sacrifice others in exchange for her own well-being, characterizing her as selfish. In a randomized lottery, there is little room for unfairness, but Tessie still alleges that Mr. Summers cheated her husband.

Tessie’s selfishness becomes even more evident when she demands that her married daughter participate in the family lottery. Tessie does not try to protect her children from death. Instead, she attempts to increase her own odds of living. In her final moments, she screams that the lottery is unfair and immoral. However, she has likely helped stone countless others in previous lotteries. By this reading, Tessie’s objections only begin when her own life is in danger.

However, another interpretation suggests that Tessie can be read as a rebel. By this reading, her late arrival is a way of protesting the lottery as an institution. By openly disrespecting the solemnity of the occasion, she undermines its role as a cultural cornerstone. She is also the only person to openly criticize the lottery and its alleged injustice. Even her husband and children remain silent when the Hutchinsons draw the marked paper. Though her protests do not initially call for an end to the lottery, by the end she has decreed the lottery as unjust and immoral. However, as a voice of dissent, Tessie is silenced at every turn. Her husband tells her to “shut up” and her friends urge her to “be a good sport.” Ultimately, her bid to change her society for the better ends as revolutions often do: with death.

Yet another reading positions Tessie as nothing more than a hapless victim of circumstance. This interpretation speaks to the injustice of society and the dangers of tradition. That anyone in the crowd could have won the lottery does not change the fact that Tessie is going to die. The tragedy of her death does not lie in who she is as an individual, but in the injustice it...

(The entire section is 2,246 words.)