ENC 1102, Section 45
February 10, 2014
Characters of “The Lottery” by Shirley Jackson
The Lottery, like most of Shirley Jackson’s other short stories was written in third person. Newsweek states, “In her art, as in her life, Shirley Jackson was an absolute original. She listened to her own voice, kept her own counsel, and isolated herself from all intellectual and literary currents . . . . She was unique." (Newsweek) In the short story “The Lottery there are three major characters that can be identified with several minor characters. The major characters in the story are Tessie Hutchinson, Old Man Warner, and Mr. Summers. The minor characters that stand out, but not in much detail are Bill Hutchinson, and Mr. Graves. There are other characters mentioned throughout the story but these few are the key characters.
Tessie Hutchinson was the only person in the town that forgot about the lottery. She arrived late to the square were the villagers all gathered. Shirley Jackson used this to make Tessie stand out in the crowd of three hundred villagers. Tessie was frustrated when she arrived stating “Clean forgot what day it was.” She added “thought my old man was out back stacking wood, and then I looked out the window and the kids was gone, and I remembered it was the twenty-seventh and came a-running.” (pg.138) Jackson uses that to make Tessie look like a free spirit person. Tessie is very outspoken throughout the draw. Once the Lottery is drawn and Tessie finds out it is her family that is the holder of the black dot, the mark of death, she refuses the outcome. Yelling and protesting that her husband, Bill, did not have enough time to draw and he was rushed. This makes Tessie look weak, even some of the other villagers tell her “we all took the same chance.” She even tries to offer up other family members to take her place. When in reality must parents would want to protect their family she offers them up to be stoned to death. In the end Tessie gets what is coming to her she is stoned, still refusing to except that she was the winner of the Lottery.
The oldest member of the village is Old Man Warner. Warner is a stubborn old man set in his ways. He has been doing the lottery for seventy-seven years and has never picked the black dot. Warner, as far as Jackson portrays him, is unmarried and has no children and lives alone. He is the last of the old dying breed. He even tells the villagers a saying, ‘Lottery in June, corn be heavy soon.’ Warner refuses to accept changes. This is shown when the villagers start to talk about the other neighboring villages doing away with the lottery drawing. He truly believes that the people who want to stop holding lotteries will have no choice but to convert back to the stone-age time, Warner acts as though the only was society can function is by having this lottery every year. He tells them “Pack of crazy fools.” "Next thing you know, they'll be wanting to go back to living in caves..." (pg. 139) In the end it is Old Man Warner who leads the charge just like all the years before. Yelling “Come on, come on, everyone.”
The last major character in “The Lottery” is Mr. Summers. Mr. Summers is pretty much the gate keeper of the lottery. With the Lottery taking place in the summer it is only fit that Jackson gives Mr. Summers his name. He makes the black circle on the piece of paper and conducts the drawing. Jackson never truly discloses why Mr. Summers is in charge of the lottery. But a person can speculate that maybe it was appointed to him by the villagers or maybe passed down from family member to family member throughout the years. Mr. Summers makes a statement in the story that shows that it does not really bother him to much about the Lottery. "Well, now." Mr. Summers said soberly, "guess we better get started, get this over with, so's we can go back to work.” (Pg. 139) However Mr. Summers does not have any children to pass down his responsibility too. One can wonder what if it was Mr. Summers that drew the black circle, and he was the one marked for dead. Who would be the next in line to take on the responsibility?
Bill Hutchinson, the husband to Tessie, is the one that drew the Black circle that set Tessie to be the one stoned. Bill is a quit man throughout the story. He doesn’t really speak much but when he does it is mainly telling his wife to “shut up” after she starts to complain about the drawing not being fair. He is very willing to show the villagers that Tessie was the one holding the black patch. He makes no excuses at the end when it is time for his wife Tessie to be stoned.
The postmaster of the village is Mr. Graves. He is Mr. Summer’s right hand man in the lottery. Mr. Graves and Mr. Summers spent the night before making up the slips of paper so that it would be ready for the drawing. Since Mr. Graves was the postmaster of the village, he had some power in the village. Jackson showed this when they were ready to start the drawing. Mr. Graves preformed the swearing in so that the drawing would be official.
Much to everyone’s surprise when “The Lottery” was written back in June of 1948 it was frowned upon. According to “The New Yorker” “There were indeed some cancelled subscriptions, as well as a fair share of name-calling—Jackson was said to be “perverted” and “gratuitously disagreeable,” with “incredibly bad taste.” But the vast majority of the letters written were not angry or abusive but simply confused.” (Ruth Franklin) Today the story is read time and time again and Jackson is seen as an amazing writer. Maybe if the story took her more than just a day to write and she was able to clarify more of the writing, there might not have been so many complaints that poured in about the story.
Barnes and Noble. The Lottery: And Other Stories. . .
Edgar V. Roberts, Robert Zweig. Literature. : Pearson, 2006. Ruth Franklin. “The Lottery” Letters. June 26, 2013. .