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“The Lottery” written in 1948

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“The Lottery” is a short story written in 1948 by Shirley Jackson. It is a piece of fiction that shows a small town in a rural setting. The villagers gather at the village square for an annual event known as the Lottery. This, however, is not the anticipated jackpot-winning event but is rather a sinister ceremony carried out by the villagers. Shirley Jackson gives the story a dark, dreadful end which shows how the human kind clings on worthless rituals.

On 27th June, villagers meet up in the village square, at around ten o’clock, between the bank and the post office, to take part in the lottery operated by Mr. Summers. Mr. Summers is the one who manages and administrates all public events in the village. He is running a company that deals with coal. However, in spite of his good fortune, he has a nagging wife and no children.

The children arrive at the village square early and start collecting stones. Bobby Martin starts collecting smooth, round stones and the other boys follow suit. On the other hand, the girls keep to themselves and do not undertake in the stone collecting. The village in the story is small and does not have a large population. This is because it takes just a day here to complete the lottery. On the other hand, it takes about two days in other villages with a large population. The men arrive first after the children and begin to discuss farming events. The women arrive soon after and call the children who stop collecting the stones.

Mr. Summers calls the head of each family – a mature man – to the front where a sizeable black wooden box is standing. Mr. Graves places the box on a three-legged stool. The black box is old and shabby but represents a tradition to the villagers. Every year, during the lottery, Mr. Summers talks about replacing it with another newer one. However, this is just a talk because nobody ever takes the initiative to replace the box. The man then proceeds and takes a piece of paper from the box. First, all the men select their piece of paper then Mr. Summers allows them to look into the paper and retrieve the winner. From the events following the selection, we get the sense that being selected does not mean a person has won a million dollars. This is because after Bill Hutchinson gets selected his wife starts to complain immediately.

After this Mr. Summers puts five pieces of paper into the box. This is because the Hutchinson family has a total of five members. Each member has to draw a paper from the box. Mrs. Hutchinson, Tess, selects a massive black paper dotted in the middle. The villagers then begin to move forward towards Mrs. Hutchinson. Here, it becomes clear what the reward from the lottery assuredly is – stoning. Mr. Summers tells the crowd to finish up quickly as Mrs. Delacroix picks up a stone while Mrs. Dunbar cheers her. Mrs. Hutchinson protests and pleads but this is as futile as flogging a dead horse because the villagers attack her. The rest of the villagers pick up the stones which the boys had piled up before. Tess is frantically urging the crowd to stop. Her son already has a few stones in his hand. Old man Warner cheers on the crown, as one of the thrown stone hits Tess. The story ends with Tess screaming as the stone throwing villagers attack her.

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