The Lottery by Shirley Jackson

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‘The Lottery’ By Shirley Jackson

Mode: Reading
Genre: Prose
Task: How does Shirley Jackson build up suspense in the short story ‘The Lottery’?

The story ‘The Lottery’ was written by Shirley Jackson, throughout the piece the author builds up suspense towards the climax. The story takes place in a small village, where the people are close and tradition is paramount. A yearly event, called the lottery, is one in which one person in the town is randomly selected, by a drawing, to be violently stoned by friends and family. This is a traditional event that is said to encourage a good harvest. The drawing has been around for over 77 years and is practised by every member of the town.

The beginning of the story is very different to the ending, at first we have know idea what the lottery is, we do not know it is the cause of someone’s death every year, we ought to think it is a normal lottery where numbers are picked, but by the end of the story, we find we could not have been more wrong. The mood is surprisingly happy at the beginning of the story and there is a real sense of normality. This builds up suspense as we get a big surprise at the end as we finally find out that ‘The Lottery’ is not our average lottery.

Shirley Jackson withholds information from us during her story, as we are not specifically told what the lottery is. Many of the details we are given throughout “The Lottery” foreshadow the violent conclusion and climax of the story. In the second paragraph, the children put stones in their pockets and make piles of stones in the town square, which seems like children’s innocent play until the stones’ true purpose becomes clear at the end of the story. Tessie Hutchison’s late arrival to the lottery makes her stick out from the crowd, Mr Summer’s words -“Thought we were going to have to get on without you”-is almost ironic as Tessie becomes the lottery’s next victim. Mr Summers also asks Ms Watson if her son will be drawing for himself and his...
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