Shirley Jackson was an American author who was born in 1919. Over the course of her career, she completed more than two hundred short stories, as well as several novels and memoirs. Her literary career began during her education at Syracuse University, where she wrote for the literary magazine. The Lottery is the most well-known publication of the author, which she published in 1948. This story portrays the life of a small suburban town in the United States.
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Throughout this story, Jackson uses irony, which can be defined as using language that usually conveys a different meaning than the author implies. This literary technique is often employed for the purpose of creating a humorous effect. In The Lottery, the author uses irony to provide readers with a twisted tale that shocks readers in the end.
The plot of this short story focuses on the lottery, which takes place in a town, although the author does not disclose the outcome of this Lottery. Jackson hints that this ritual should help ensure the successful harvesting season. Regardless of the outcomes, the townspeople prepared for the lottery by gathering in the square. The men and women talked to each other, discussing topics such as taxes and tractors while looking at the children, who also came to the square.
Considering the ending of this short story, it is remarkable that the townspeople gather for the lottery “at ten o’clock in the morning” and they can “still be through in time to allow the villagers to get home for noon dinner” (Jackson). Therefore, they gather for the event as if it is a normal thing and rush to their homes after it is over as if nothing out of the ordinary happened.
The ironic twists that Jackson uses throughout The Lottery are remarkable. The name of this work itself is ironic because the general perception of such an event implies that a person winning will receive a prize of some sort. In the discussed story, however, the winner is stoned to death by the others. A notable factor here is that the writer does not discuss the outcome of the lottery and the reader can fully comprehend the meaning of it in the end, with only one aspect of the plot hinting at this occurrence.
At the beginning of The Lottery, the children gather stones as part of their preparation for the lottery. As Jackson describes it, “Bobby Martin had already stuffed his pockets full of stones, and the other boys soon followed his example, selecting the smoothest and roundest stones.” A significant twist is that Mrs. Hutchinson was late as she was the last person to rush to the square. The irony that Jackson portrays through the story is connected to the lottery ritual since its origins and procedures were changed or forgotten. Notably, Jackson states that the origins of this Lottery were lost a long time ago, however, the villagers continued to adhere to this tradition.
The final part of the story is choosing the winner from the family members. As part of the procedure, the families of the village have to draw a slip from the box, and the ones who get the marked slip continue drawing the slips. Since the Hutchinson family received the marked slip, they have to select the person who will be stoned to death as a result of the lottery. Mrs. Hutchinson protested against this by stating, “You didn’t give him time enough to take any paper he wanted.
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I saw you. It wasn’t fair!” Moreover, before the drawing, some of the townspeople discussed how other towns abandoned this practice, with one of the citizens arguing that they are young fools. Notably, Jackson describes the actions of Mr. Hutchinson since he did not support his wife. Moreover, he took the paper slip out of her hands to show the townspeople that it was marked. In the end, Tessie is stoned to death by the townspeople because she has drawn the marked sleep. Despite her protests against the procedure, the people carry out their rituals.
Overall, this story employs irony to present plot twists, shocking for a reader, especially towards the end of The Lottery. The overall meaning of it is connected to the lack of reason that would help the townspeople understand that there is no point in the lottery. Moreover, since they could not recall the original purpose of this tradition and because they used different rituals, such as paper slips instead of wooden planks, one could argue that nothing was left from the original ritual.
An ironic twist of this story is that Tessie forgot about the ritual and was the last one to join the townspeople in the square. She protested against the procedure, however, no one, including her husband, voiced support for her. All in all, one can conclude that the townspeople did not have to hold this lottery as there was no reason for it, nor did they remember the implications that led to the creation of the lottery. Regardless, they continued to gather each year, allowing children to bring stones and carry out their lottery.
Jackson, Shirley. “The Lottery.” The New Yorker. 1948. Web.