How does the setting or irony develop a theme in "The Lottery"?

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In “The Lottery,” irony is used to develop the theme of the danger of strictly following tradition. The irony is that Tessie Hutchison maintains confidence in the lottery until it personally affects her. Only when her family is chosen, and then she herself is chosen, does she question the tradition.

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The theme of tradition and the hazards of following it too closely is developed through the course of the story. Shirley Jackson does not reveal what the prize is for winning the lottery until the end. After Tessie Hutchison has been selected, the reader learns that she will be stoned to death. The irony lies in Tessie’s rapid change of attitude upon learning that her family has won. Earlier in the story, Tessie had been enthusiastic about everyone’s participation. When Bill, her husband, picks the marked ticket, she begins to complain of unfairness and cheating, and when she selects the next one, she condemns the custom of the lottery entirely.

Through most of the story, Jackson’s third-person narrator offers the events of the annual lottery day in chronological sequence. The reader learns about the past from villagers who begin congregating in the town square. The reminisce about the tiny changes that have occurred in the lottery tradition. In this way, the reader gets a sense that the tradition has existed longer than anyone can remember, and most townspeople are reluctant to make changes in that tradition. Readers are given no reason to suspect that winning the lottery would be anything but a good thing.

One of the characters who seems to support the tradition is Tessie Hutchison. As the actual drawing is set to begin, she encourages others to come forward and participate. However, her stance changes when it is revealed that her husband chose the marked ticket: she accuses the official of unfairness. The others chide her for poor sportsmanship. When Tessie is the one who chooses the next marked ticket, identifying her as the winner, she grows agitated. It turns out that her support for the tradition did not include the possibility that she would become its winner. Ironically, she has become the victim of a system that she claimed to believe would protect her.

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