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Foreshadowing in The Lottery by Shirley Jackson

Examples of Foreshadowing

While not immediately obvious, there are instances of foreshadowing in the story which seems to imply that some form of auspicious practice was about to occur. The most obvious example of foreshadowing was the emphasis the author placed on how the various characters in the story spoke and interacted with one another. They spoke in a quiet and somber nature with their jokes not eliciting laughs but half-hearted smiles (Jackson 291).

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It seems as if the small talk that was occurring among the villagers was forced and that they were doing all that they could to take their minds off an impending event. There is a general feeling of “restlessness” so to speak in the atmosphere of the story during the first few parts wherein the anticipation towards “something” or “anything” is palpable in the way in which the characters are portrayed (Jackson 291).

The second and least obvious foreshadowing in the initial section of the story was the boys gathering stones and rocks and placing them either in a pile or in their pockets. While such actions would normally be attributed to boys being boys, the fact that the author placed a considerable emphasis on the event instead of just saying “the boys were placing stones in their pockets”, shows that the stones are important in some way towards whatever it is that is about to occur (Jackson 291).

Some assumptions that can be derived is that the collection of stones is important in some way for the kids or that they are to use the stones to throw them at someone or something. Another instance of foreshadowing during the initial half of the story was the fact that the children and adults were assembling for some sort of event. Instead of the event happening sometime randomly in the future, it is apparent that it is happening right at that moment. Considering the generally somber attitudes of the adults involved and the fact that the children do not seem concerned, it can be assumed that the event involves the adults in some way.

What might be foreshadowed?

One possible interpretation of the assembly is that some sort of trial is about to occur wherein the guilty party of a crime is to be judged in front of the entire village. This particular interpretation is not too far from the truth since in the past it was normal for sentencing and executions to be conducted in a public forum for everyone to see. It should also be noted that since the women were wearing faded clothing and there is no indication that the event would be a joyous one, this helps to support the assumption that what would possibly occur is some form of public trial and execution. What is unusual though is the fact that children are present during such an event.

Normally, children would be prevented from watching a public trial and execution since it may impact their “delicate minds” so to speak. As such, one possible interpretation of this is that the trial and punishment are not so severe and the children are there merely to watch and participate so that they can understand the process of crime and punishment. However, this does not explain the presence of the piles of rocks and the emphasis the author placed on them. One possible interpretation is that the rocks act as a means of teaching the inherent dangers of committing a crime; maybe the children are going to throw rocks at the criminal for them to see what would occur to them if they also committed a crime.

Works Cited

Jackson, Shirley. The Lottery and Other Stories, New York: Farrar, 1991. Print

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