Irony in “The Lottery”
Shirley Jackson’s “The Lottery” offers an almost classic study of irony of situation: the reader expects a celebration; she gets a stoning. Such a reversal is the work of careful planning by the author. The reader expects the lottery to be a celebration of some sort because Jackson describes the setting, details the activities of the townspeople, and refers to the lottery itself in terms that belie the outcome of the event.
First, Jackson establishes a setting which suggests that the lottery is, in fact, a pleasant event as she starts off describing what most would perceive as a beautiful day. The statement “June 27th was clear and sunny, with the fresh warmth of a full-summer day; the flowers were blooming profusely and the grass was richly green” not only lets the reader know what season it is but most readers would assume that what happens next is a happy thing. Jackson also lets the reader know that this event happens in other towns too, but luckily this town is small so it won’t take long and everyone one can get back to lunch, and whatever else they were doing, as if it were an election or something similar.
Then she details what appear to be normal activities of citizens as they assemble for nothing more than a simple town meeting. The reader would assume that the narrator of this short story has known the characters she describes and has viewed these events several times before. She states “The children gathered first, of course” as if to say that is the way it happens every time. The boys are gathering stones and horses playing as the girls are “talking among themselves”, these are normal things for children to be doing at a town meeting. There seems to be no real level of stress or anxiety as Jackson describes the adults. By saying “Soon the men began to gather. Surveying their own children, speaking of planting and rain, tractors and taxes” reiterates that these men are from a small town and this is what they would normally...
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