“the Lottery”: Characters, Setting, and Theme

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Shirley Jackson’s “The Lottery” is a story of a town whose citizens are required to participate in an annual “lottery”. We soon find out, however, that unlike most lotteries, this is not a lottery that one hopes to win. With her ingenious use of setting, characters, themes, she creates a suspenseful and exciting tale that left me in awe when I finally put it down.

The setting of Jackson’s story is a very deceptive one, and makes us, as readers, wonder where and when this story takes place. She does not give a name to the town, nor the time of year it takes place, but what I found very odd was that she gives specific details about the exact day of the lottery. She tells us the date, June 27th, the time, around 10:00 a.m., and the temperature, warm. She describes the scene exactly, showing that there are flowers blossoming and rich green grass growing, and how the town square, where everyone is gathered, is between the bank and the post office. She also provides details about the town, including how may people live there and how long the lottery takes (Jackson 1). The combination of these precise details and the mystery of when and where this story takes place give a good sense of the scene, but also leaves a lot to the reader’s imagination thus enhancing the surprising end of the story (Cellania 4).

Although it is not fairly clear who the main character of “The Lottery” is, we learn that Tessie Hutchinson ends up being the dynamic character of the story. When she arrives late to the lottery, admitting that she forgot what day it was, she immediately stands out from the other townsfolk as someone different. The crowd must part for her to reach her family, whereas, the other women arrive at the square calmly and on time, standing next to their husbands. On a day when the townspeople’s main focus is the lottery, this lack of priority seems inappropriate, almost intolerable. This shows that she is somewhat of an individualist who is able to forget about the...
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