Hoping to Draw a Blank
In modern times, the lottery is generally acknowledged as a set of fantastic prizes that people vie to win; however, in Shirley Jackson’s “The Lottery,” the exact opposite is true. Jackson transforms this rather innocuous-sounding practice to a dark, perverse town ritual in a shocking twist that leaves the reader hungry for more details. Jackson conveys her message that tradition is not always best with her omission of details, use of foreshadowing and abrupt ending.
Jackson begins her story in a very simple manner: describing the scenery of the town in which “The Lottery” takes place. Jackson portrays the cheerful atmosphere with phrases like “the flowers...blooming profusely...” and “the grass...richly green,” however, as the story continues, Jackson is less forthcoming with her details (Jackson 122). Throughout her narrative, Jackson drops tantalizing hints about the lottery, but the reader never truly discovers the purpose until shortly before the conclusion. Jackson leads the reader on by insinuating that winning the lottery is not necessarily positive to a person. Jackson demonstrates the townspeople’s reluctance, such as Jack Watson, who, when called to draw out of the black box, “came awkwardly through the crowd...” (Jackson 127). His fellow townspeople ply him with words of encouragement like, “‘Don’t be nervous, Jack...’” and “‘Take your time, boy...” (Jackson 127). If winning the lottery benefitted the winner, the Watson boy would have been more enthusiastic about drawing his card. Mrs. Hutchinson’s dismay when she discovers her husband has drawn the marked card also lends to the suspicion that winning the lottery has a ruinous affect on the winner. When Mr. Summers announces that “Bill Hutchinson’s got [the marked paper],” Tessie Hutchinson goes on a rant about how “it wasn’t fair” because Mr. Summers “didn’t give [Mr. Hutchinson] enough time to take any paper he wanted...” (Jackson 127). Mrs. Hutchinson’s blatant alarm...
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