In "The Lottery," how is the story’s title ironic?

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The idea of a lottery suggests taking part in a competition or game in which the winner receives a high-value or highly desirable prize. The title of Jacksons's story is, therefore, ironic because, in her lottery, the winner does not receive a prize; she is, in fact, condemned to death....

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This adds an extra layer ofirony because Jackson's winner actually loses the biggest and most desirable prize of all: the gift of life.

By employing such an ironic title, Jackson completely smashes the reader's expectations of the story's events. While she hints at the violence to come (by referring to the stones in the opening paragraphs), the reader does not realize the implications of winning the lottery until the very end of the story when the winner, Tessie Hutchinson, is standing alone in the center of a "cleared space" which is surrounded by residents clutching stones of varying sizes. 

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The title is one of situational irony as it develops in the story. The term "lottery" suggests an opportunity to win something of value, a nice prize or perhaps a large amount of money. The odds of winning a lottery are very small because many people usually participate, but for the lucky winner, the pay-off is very nice indeed. In this story, however, the irony lies in the fact that the person who "wins" the lottery loses his or her life in an especially terrible way. As we slowly begin to realize what the lottery is really all about, the horror of the story grows until its final savage conclusion.

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The title is ironic because winning a lottery usually means you get a prize, when in this case it means you die.

Irony is when the opposite of what is expected happens.  In our culture, a lottery is usually a good thing. The winner of a lottery gets some kind of prize, such as money.  We want to win lotteries.  They will make our lives better. 

The lottery in this village is not quite the same.  Everyone shows up for the lottery, but no one really wants to be there.  The first hint that something is wrong is that no one wants to go near the stool.

The villagers kept their distance, leaving a space between themselves and the stool, and … there was a hesitation before two men…came forward.

In this case, no one really wants to be part of the lottery.  Yet tradition dictates they do it, and tradition is so strong that they dare not change it.  The winner of the lottery is stoned to death, which is the opposite of winning a prize that makes your life better.

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Shirley Jackson's story "The Lottery" has a title that is meant to be both realistic and ironic. It is realistic because there is, indeed, a tradition that is systematically followed in the settlement. This tradition has found no argument throughout the years and has consistently been put into place with no complaints, as we can denote from the avid way in which the settlers take active part of it.  Therefore, it is quite acceptable to name this story "The Lottery", as there is a lottery which is about to take place, and in which the characters, main and secondary, participate fully from beginning to end.

What brings the irony to the title, is that the reader will tend to give the semantic meaning to the word "lottery", assuming that it is a chance, an opportunity to earn or win something. In fact, that is precisely what a lottery is: A situation whose outcome is entirely dependant on chance.

This being said, think about the gruesome nature of this particular lottery: Whoever wins gets to be stoned to death. No reason nor rationale stands behind this. No actual purpose does it serve. It simply occurs "because it does", and nobody has stepped forward to argue that it is unnecessary nor that it is morbid and, well, criminal.

Therefore, when we compare and contrast the before and after feelings we get when we read the title, and then read the story, we can really see that the title shifts us to a mood that changes to fear and horror by the end of the tale.

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Why might the title "The Lottery," or the opening description in paragraph one, be considered ironic?

The title or the opening description in paragraph one might be considered ironic because they both give hints to the reader that this story is going to be a happy and fun story, which is the complete opposite of how this story ends.

Normally, a lottery involves winning something good. It might be money or a prize, but people participate in lotteries because they are hoping for the item being given away. Unfortunately, in this story the winner of the lottery is not getting anything other than a guaranteed death.

The opening paragraph sells to the reader a happy town gathering. It talks about sunny weather, green grass, and pretty flowers. Everything sounds like a Fourth of July town picnic. It sounds great. It most definitely doesn't sound like a gathering to raffle off which member of the town is going to die.

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