The Lottery, by Shirley Jackson

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Shirley Jackson’s “The Lottery” is a story littered with warnings and subtext about the dangers a submissive society can pose. While the opening is deceptively cheery and light Jackson uses an array of symbols and ominous syntax to help create the apprehensive and grim tone the story ends with. Her portrayal of the town folk as blindly following tradition represents the world during World War II when people’s failure to not mindlessly accept and heed authority lead to disastrous consequences. . Shirley Jackson uses a large array of techniques to help convey the idea that recklessly following and accepting traditions and orders can lead to disastrous consequences.

The opening paragraphs of the story contain a light and carefree tone with phrases such as, “The morning… was clear and sunny, with the fresh warmth of a full-summer day” (1) and “the children assembled first…they broke into boisterous play” (1). Jackson does not lead the reader to think that the anything sinister is going to occur. However once the narration moves from the children to the adults the first hint of something other than lighthearted small town excitement is perceived; “The men… stood together…their jokes were quiet, and they smiled rather than laughed” (2). The story proceeds to give some backstory on the lottery unless Mr. Summers gets ready to begin and “A sudden hush fell on the crowd” (3), at the point the reader is more than a little dubious that the lottery is something one wants to win. As Mr. Summers begins the crowd is described as “quiet”, “not looking around”, and “grave”, the subtle change in tone as the names continue to be drawn creates a mounting sense of apprehension until Mr. Summers calls the last time and there is “a long pause...

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...er act as opposites as the symbolize fights traditions and holding tightly to them. The gradual tonal change in the story helps to make the shocking ending that effectively demonstrates the dangers of thoughtlessly upholding traditions. By beginning on a nice summer day the reader doesn’t expect a sinister ending until slowly clues are reveals the tone dramatically shifts. Jackson paints an ill-received image of America following WWII by portraying the danger of blindingly following and accepting traditions. Americans viewed the story as shocking and unsettling as they most likely could see traces of their own actions mirrored by those in the town as they callously murder their neighbor. Shirley Jackson uses a large array of techniques to help convey the idea that recklessly following and accepting traditions and orders can lead to disastrous consequences.

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