The story begins with families gathering in the center of town; children are piling up rocks and women are catching up on gossip. The town is preparing for a lottery, and Mr. Summers is making sure everything is in order, including the black box and slips with different family’s names on them. While people begin to get pull tickets from the box for the lottery, a couple guys talk about how other towns are doing away with the lottery, and whether their town should or not. Bill Hutchinson’s wife Tessie draws the “winning ticket”. What she wins is a ritualistic stoning carried out by the other villagers.
Although for the most part the story goes in a chronological order, there are a few instances of foreshadowing. The story begins with foreshadowing. Although the reader thinks the kids are piling up rocks for fun, it is really that they are piling up rocks to use for the stoning. The talk about tradition of the black box is also a form of foreshadowing, as the act of stoning a person is a tradition that holds no purpose.
Tessie is a main character. She speaks desperately, trying to save herself from stoning. Tessie is hypocritical, as she does not mind others being stoned every year, but protests it as unfair when it comes to her family. Old Man Warner is the historic voice of the story. He has been through 77 lotteries, and believes that the lottery is what keeps the town from being barbaric. Mr. Summers is the town organizer. He keeps things moving for the lottery, and also keeps the story itself paced. Bill Hutchinson, Tessie’s husband, is resigned to losing a member of his family. He does not protest, and even allows his children to take part in stoning their own mother. There are various villagers who are mentioned as well. They help add to the drama of what is happening, and the horror of the actions taken.
The story takes place on June 27th, sunny summer day. Flowers were blossoming, and the grass was green. It was in the town square. The square was between the bank and the post office. Given the availability of rocks, the road must have been dirt. It started at 10am. The symbolism is in the tradition of meeting. Much of this story centers on symbolisms.
Symbolism and Irony:
The lottery itself is a symbol for blindly followed traditions. The black box is a symbol for holding onto old traditions. The black box was broken and in need of repair, and was not even the original box, yet the tradition of using it was clung to much like they clung to the broken lottery. Also, while Tessie was comfortable with the idea of the lottery and stoning someone, she did an about face when it came to her family being chose. She then started spouting about the unfairness of the lottery. Also ironic was Old Man Warner’s view that the lottery prevented the town from being barbaric, when the idea of stoning someone randomly because of a lottery system is barbaric.
Point of View:
It is written in third person omniscient. This choice of point of view allows the reader to see the action through various viewpoints. Were it written in just one person’s point of view, it would be a very different story. There would be ideas, like Old Man Warner’s, that might not be introduced to the reader as well or at all.
Language and Style:
Much of this story is written with an ironic style. Considering the entire idea of an entire village unquestioningly adhering to a barbaric tradition every year without knowing the reason why is quite ironic, it is not surprise this style pervades. For instance, the irony that little Davy participates in his own mothers stoning, or that the kids gather stones for the stoning to begin with when they have no concept of what is happening. Comments like Old Man Warner makes about what he considers protecting them from being barbaric continue with the ironic style. Also, Tessie actively protesting the stoning once it hit her family is ironic.
The ultimate theme of the story is the consequences of blindly following traditions without understanding the reasons why. The author expresses this with a yearly lottery that ends in stoning someone. The villagers have no idea why they do this every year. Much of the tradition surrounding the lottery has been forgotten. Despite this, the villagers cling to the tradition. I agree that too often people blindly follow tradition without understanding the tradition.