Of all the elements that comprise a story, the setting might seem as the only one that is static, yet it is also prone to changes throughout the story. These alterations indicate changes in the development of characters, the mood set within the narration, and the narrative itself, pointing to the transfer from one act to another. In “The Lottery” and “The Rocking Horse Winner,” the changes in the setting are defined not by the physical alterations in the environment but by the prism through which they are viewed. Thus, both authors turn the pleasant suburbia into something sinister and depressing, imbuing the seemingly innocent background with the sense of impending doom.
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Development of Setting in “The Lottery”
“The Lottery” might seem to have earned its praise due to the unsettling denouement at the end of the narration, yet the short story in question owes a significant part of its fame to the masterful development of its setting. The claustrophobic environment of the town seems rather cheerful and only slightly contained at first. However, as the dramatic reveal occurs, the town transforms into a nightmarish place where people are murdered for the sake of ostensible purification: “The pile of stones the boys had made earlier was ready” (Jackson). Therefore, the alterations witnessed in the short story reflect the sense of helplessness and despair that its residents have despite the supposed improvements that the purge brings.
At first glance, the development of the setting within “the Lottery” occurs very unevenly, with most of it remaining static during the first two acts of the story and being changed drastically at the end of the third one. However, reading the short story more attentively, one will notice the presence of the impending doom that becomes increasingly more pronounced as the narration approaches its climax. Therefore, the development of the setting in “The Lottery” has a direct effect on the plot and characters, amplifying the impact of the sudden reveal that readers witness at the end of the story.
Development of Setting in “The Rocking Horse Winner”
Similarly to the changes observed in “The Lottery,” “The Rocking Horse Winner” also introduces a significant change in its setting in the third act as the story progresses and the plot twist is revealed. The sinister feeling that the claustrophobic environment in “The Rocking Horse Winner” creates intensifies as the plot of the story unwraps, which can be paralleled with the development of the setting in “The Lottery.” Specifically, the suburban setting described at the beginning and posed as pleasant and comforting gradually becomes suffocating and menacing.
However, “The Rocking Horse Winner” also incorporates the unique characteristics that set it apart from “the Lottery.” Specifically, the fact that most of the events take place in the environment of a single house increase the feeling of insecurity and anxiety, transforming the comfortable house into a trap and a metaphorical predicament that the family, including the child, cannot possibly escape. The point at which Paul escapes the house and starts betting to win money on races represents a rapid change in the setting of the story.
However, it does not only fail to provide Paul with the escape from the epicenter of his family’s misery but also creates a striking contrast with Pauls’ home: “The child had never been to a race-meeting before, and his eyes were blue fire. He pursed his mouth tight and watched” (Lawrence). Thus, the idea that the lack of money about which Paul’s mother complaints is not the core problem that causes the residents of the house to feel unhappy. Thus, instead of representing a positive alteration in the protagonist’s life, the specified change multiplies the feeling of despair with which “The Rocking Horse Winner” opens.
As a result, both “The Rocking Horse Winner” and “the Lottery” sue their settings to expand their themes and explore key ideas. Moreover, the change in the environment helps the reader to observe changes in the characters’ development, as the example of “The Rocking Horse Winner” shows. With the realization that the obtained money is unlikely to make his family happy, Paul starts to embrace the bitter truth, which leads to the evolution of his character and the transfer from childish naiveté to a more mature understanding of his family and its problems.
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Despite the differences in the narrative, characters, and central conflict of the stories, both “The Lottery” and “The Rocking Horse Winner” use their setting to advance the plot and emphasize the message that they are supposed to convey. The development of the setting allows outlining the changes that occur to the characters in both short stories, thus shocking readers into exploring the story further. The changes in the settings emphasize the key themes, allowing them to expand into a grander notion.
The changes in the settings of “The Lottery” and “The Rocking Horse Winner” serve their purpose perfectly by serving as the foil for plot and character development. Therefore, these settings can be seen as a crucial vehicle for furthering the narrative and making the story complete.
Jackson, Shirley. “The Lottery.” Middlebury.edu, n.d. Web.
Lawrence, D. H. “The Rocking-Horse Winner.” ClassicShorts.com, n.d. Web.