The Lottery

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When one thinks of a lottery, they imagine winning a large sum of money. Shirley Jackson uses the setting in The Lottery to foreshadow an ironic ending. The peaceful and tranquil town described in this story has an annual lottery, and you can't possibly guess what the "prize" is…

The author foreshadows an ironic ending at the very beginning by establishing a cheerful setting. The story occurs "around ten o'clock" on June twenty-seventh, a time of day that is very bright and joyous and a time of year that is warm and makes people feel happy. The town's physical setting also contributes to the overall "normal" feeling of the story. The grass is described as "richly green," and the flowers are "blossoming profusely."

An ironic ending is also foretold by the town's setting being described as one of normalcy. The town square is described as being "between the post office and the bank;" every normal town has these buildings, which are essential for day-to-day functioning. The townspeople also establish a normal, comfortable setting for the story. The children are doing what all typical kids do, playing boisterously and gathering rocks. The woman of the town are doing what all stereotypical females do, "exchang[ing] bits of gossip." The men are being average males by chatting about boring day-to-day tasks like "planting and rain, tractors and taxes."

Despite this comfortable and normal setting, there are hints of the town's unusualness that foreshadow a surprise ending. For example, the lottery is being held "around ten o'clock" in the morning, which is an unusual time because in most towns all the adults would be working during mid-morning. In addition, the author mentions a bank and post office as key buildings surrounding the town square, but what about a church or courthouse? Surely these two buildings would also be in any traditional town square! The lottery is compared to the town's celebration of Halloween, not a joyous celebration such as...
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