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“The Lottery” and “The Destructors”: Conflict, Characterization and Irony


This paper will be focused on analyzing, comparing, and contrasting two short stories. The first one is “The Lottery” by Shirley Jackson, and the second is “The Destructors” by Graham Greene. The pieces share some similarities in terms of their approaches and themes, making them well-suited for comparison. The essay will discuss the main conflicts of each respective story, their characterization, and themes. An overall goal is to show how two distinct stories approach similar themes and subjects in their respective narratives.

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Each story details a completely different situation, but the overarching conflicts are similar. Both scenarios in these books are extremely exaggerated and unrealistic, clashing with a down-to-earth presentation. The discrepancy in both pieces comes from a difference between expectation and reality. The stories carefully build up tension, subverting the expectations of both the characters and the audience. In “The Lottery”, the plot revolves around the people from a small village holding a lottery. The author meticulously describes the townsfolk, stating their names and paying much attention to how the event itself is held and organized. Conflict of the story comes from the audience’s and the character’s anticipation of the lottery’s results. The village people are immersed in the process and adhere to it as a long-standing tradition, while the reader is driven by curiosity and investment in the plot. The plot of “The Destructors”, on the other hand, follows an English gang of young boys that dedicate their time to committing pranks. The story manages to subvert the expectations of the Old Man and the reader by completely destroying the house by the end of the story, which can be considered a rather bold move.


In regards to characterization, both pieces masterfully build their characters throughout the course of their stories. In “The Lottery”, every villager that is mentioned is given a name, and the central characters have time to show the reader their dispositions about the event. Mr. Summers, the man conducting the lottery is shown as a diligent man and one of the community leaders for the village (Jackson, 1948). Old Man Warner is another character the audience gets to know. His major contribution to the story is arguing with younger people about the necessity of the lottery. He believes it is an essential part of their lives, and abandoning the lottery will lead to the degradation of society. Judging from the fact that his opinions are not ridiculed, the reader can assume that many of the villagers hold similar beliefs and want to follow the established conventions. In the case of “The Destructors”, most of the characterization is received by the boys of the Wormsley Common Gang. Each of the members has some distinct character traits, with T. and Blackie being the most prominent. Blackie is a careful and strong leader of the group, directing the other’s course of action. A first, he has reservations about the newest recruit, T., but accepts him after a display of conviction (Greene, 1954). Blackie recognizes that T’s plan to destroy the house of Mr. Thomas can bring the boys much recognition. T. is a descendant of a wealthy family, carries himself seriously, and has the ability to take initiative. Convincing the other boys to destroy the house, he became a temporary leader of the gang. His motivations are beyond hate for the man, as he sees the situation as a way to challenge the concept of materialism. Both stories take their time to introduce and make the reader familiar with their characters, grounding the plot in reality, and immersing the audience into the events.


Irony persists as an important concept in both stories. While the two stories largely rely on building tension and subverting the expectations, the narratives are told in a serious, straightforward manner. The commitment to a descriptive, matter of fact tone creates an interesting contrast with the extreme actions of some characters. In the case of the first story, it comes from a contrast between the townsfolk awaiting the lottery’s results and Tessie Hutchinson’s reaction upon realizing she is a winner. She, similar to all others is excited, but soon changes her disposition once learning of her victory (Jackson, 1948). Her reaction shows the reader that the villagers enjoy seeing the suffering of others but are unhappy to be on the receiving end. In the case of the second story, Mr. Thomas’s desire to clean his shoes before entering the house is a source of irony, because the reader understands that the inside of the house is destroyed, and his actions have no point. T’s desire to give the old man a blanket to make him feel warmer is also quite ironic, considering that the boy is responsible for his home’s destruction.


Jackson, S. (1948) The Lottery. Web.

Greene, G. (1954). The Destructors. The Short Story Project. Web.

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