What makes a short story different from one another? What makes them similar and, at the same time, well written? These questions may seem unlike. However, the key lies in the factors these short stories share. The quality of a coherent short fiction should have five basic elements, character, setting, conflict, plot and theme. Though there may be other more advanced factors, such as irony, foreshadowing, symbolism, and et cetera that can make them uncommon and more appealing to readers. Nonetheless, on the surface, it is obvious that these short stories share the same basic components.
Nevertheless, what makes each of them original and distinct if they were to share the same key ingredients? As mentioned before, advanced elements are one method that short stories can differentiate from one another, yet usually, the differences in stories rely greatly on the authors’ background and the time when the story was written. “Lamb to the Slaughter” was written by Roald Dahl in 1953, while “The Lottery” was written by Shirley Jackson first published in 1948. Judging by the time when both stories are written, individuals can say that they have a lot in common, since they were written in similar time periods. However, this statement is solely partially true, owing to the fact that every two short stories have both similarities and differences. In this essay, I am going to explore the setting, conflict and theme in “Lamb to the Slaughter” and “The Lottery”.
In a short fiction, the setting is not simply the time and place. The climate, social conditions and the mood setter can all be categorized into one term, setting. In this paragraph, I am going to discuss the setting of the stories “Lamb to the Slaughter” and “The Lottery”. Starting with “Lamb to the Slaughter”, this story starts off placid and peaceful. Roald Dahl used descriptive language to introduce the characters and the surroundings to the reader. For instance, sentences like “The room was warm”, “she was curiously peaceful” and “her mouth and her eyes, with their new calm look, seemed larger and darker than before.” (Dahl Roald, Line 1-5) are employed to paint a picture in the readers’ minds. Vocabularies like “clam”, “peaceful”, and “warm” all gave the reader an idea of the environment. Mary Maloney was the pregnant wife of Patrick Maloney and she was waiting for him to return home. It may seem like a soothing story. However, during the climax, the tension in the mood starts to rise. “She sat still through it all, watching him with puzzled horror” (Dahl Roald, Line 44) Patrick told Mary something that she wouldn’t believe. It may be a divorce, or even perhaps an affair but nothing was stated perspicuously in the story and it was left to the audience’s imagination. This major event led to a change in the setting.
The tension was at its highest peak when Mary Maloney murdered her husband with the frozen leg of a lamb, but soon drops after this unforeseen action of hers. The setting created by Roald Dahl can be directly related to its point of view, third person limited. Terms “she”, “he” was used, however, perspective is limited to Mary Maloney. The fact that the reader exclusively knows Mary’s thoughts but no one else’s can generate the ambience of suspense, which fluctuated the mood between sangfroid to stressful and back to calm, after Mary Maloney has covered up for her murder. As Mary becomes untroubled so does the reader, since the readers know the thoughts of Mary and is somewhat in Mary’s shoes. “The Lottery” started off similarly to “Lamb to the Slaughter”. Shirley Jackson began the tale with a brief introduction of the environment. “The morning of June 27th was clear and sunny”, “fresh warmth of a full-summer day”, “flowers were blossoming profusely and the grass was richly green.” (Jackson Shirley, Line 1-7) Specific terms such as “sunny”, “fresh” and “summer” all provided the readers with a serene sensation when reading this story. Subsequent to this unruffled description, the protagonist Tessie Hutchinson was introduced. She was the wife of Mr. Hutchinson and gave birth to three children, Nancy, Dave and Bill, Jr. Comparable to the structure of “Lamb to the Slaughter”, the mood soon changed in “The Lottery” when Bill Hutchinson was picked as the victim of the lottery. Initially, Tessie had a carefree attitude as she jokes around with her neighbors. After knowing Bill has been picked, the fiction’s atmosphere along with Tessie’s emotions became tense presently.
“After that, there was a long pause, a breathless pause.” (Jackson Shirley, Line 161-162) Trying to cover for her husband, Tessie requested a redraw, which later resulted in her own death. Throughout the course of the story, the mood of “The Lottery” changed from pleasant to edgy. This is also associate with the point of view used to write this tale. “The Lottery” was written in a third person objective perspective. In this case, the reader can solely see the story unfurling. This can further highlight the appalling ending, since the villagers’ anxious emotions merely acted as hints to aid the reader predict the resolution, rather than their direct thoughts. This can enhance the sense of suspense. To sum up, the point of view is a method utilized in both stories to set up the mood and the setting.
The conflict of a short narrative can be defined as a situation between characters that results in hostility. There are typically four types of conflicts, man versus man, man versus society, man versus self and man versus nature. In this passage, I am going to discuss the type of conflict used in the stories “Lamb to the Slaughter” and “The Lottery”. Beginning with “Lamb to the Slaughter”, the conflict in this fiction is distinctly known as man versus man. Mary Maloney is a virtuous housewife who is determined to protect her unborn child. However, before the climax of the story, Patrick Maloney purposed news that Mary considered dreadful. This drives her to murder him. Considering that her unborn child will die with her if she gets executed for homicide, Mary created a believable alibi that will deceive the eyes of others and get her out of murder. Mary as an individual is against Patrick, since he believes their marriage is a mismatch and is noticeably trying to leave Mary while she is pregnant with his child. On the other hand, “The Lottery” has a differing conflict, man versus society.
The protagonist, Tessie Hutchinson, struggles against the long-established customs of her village of sacrificing humans every year. From a varied perspective, the conflict of this story can also be considered as a dissension between two principles, unenlightenment and the truth. Practically everyone in the village, especially Old Man Warner who is obsessed with the lottery convention, believes that the lottery should be held every year. The villagers who symbolizes unenlightenment blindly follows the observance. Tessie, the solitary exception out of all, claims that it isn’t fair to conduct the lottery. In this case, she represents the truth, since it is truly unjust to sacrifice lives for an imaginary purpose. Rituals and human oblation cannot boost the growth of crops. Overall, the conflict in “Lamb to the Slaughter” and “The Lottery” is divergent due to the contrasting reasons behind each existing quarrel.
The theme is a general message that the author wants to convey through the course of the story. In this section, I am going to discuss the setting of the stories “Lamb to the Slaughter” and “The Lottery”. To begin with, in “Lamb to the Slaughter” the main theme is betrayal. When Patrick left his wife, his disloyalty betrays the affection Mary has for him. “This is going to be a big shock to you, I’m afraid.” (Dahl Roald, Line 42) The pressure and stress caused by the instantaneous breakdown of Mary’s marriage led to her own betrayal by committing a crime that killed her husband. In addition, when the police arrived to investigate this matter, they’ve also betrayed their coworker by devouring the murder weapon that killed the victim, as well as a colleague. This scene is accompanied well with a sense of irony. “It’s probably right under our noses.” (Dahl Roald, Line 155) Likewise, one theme in “The Lottery” is hypocrisy and betrayal. The villagers in “The Lottery” seems to be tranquilly talking about the lottery.
However, it can be evidently spotted in the text that everyone was anxious around the lottery. Even if they didn’t say that they were nervous, it can be discerned in their behaviors. “Don’t be nervous, Jack.” (Jackson Shirley, Line 159) Moreover, in the end, when Bill Hutchinson was selected as the victim of the lottery, Tessie protested and asked for a redraw. This time, Tessie betrayed her children by making them take their chances in the lottery. She did this to minimize the chance of picking the black dot herself. “There’s Don and Eva,’ Mrs. Hutchinson yelled. ‘Make them take their chance!” (Jackson Shirley, Line 176) Nevertheless, the fiction ended up with Tessie drawing the “death ticket” out of the black box. Once it is known that Tessie will be the final victim, the villagers started to surround Tessie. Not only Tessie’s neighbors were against her so was her family.
Tessie’s children were given rocks by the others who was about to stone Tessie to death. “The children had stones already. And someone gave little Davy Hutchinson few pebbles.” (Jackson Shirley, Line 236) These initially “good-natured” neighbors that joked with her earlier before the lottery killed her with their own hands. This can display the hypocrisy in the villagers and the fact that they betrayed Tessie when she was picked by the lottery. “All right, folks.’ Mr. Summers said. ‘Let’s finish quickly.” (Jackson Shirley, Line 228) In conclusion, the theme in both “Lamb to the Slaughter” and “The Lottery” displays betrayal.
All in all, “Lamb to the Slaughter” and “The Lottery” shares two resemblances and one difference. The similarities include the setting, which was mainly shown in the way both authors addressed the point of view and the theme, betrayal. The dissimilarity being the conflict, “Lamb to the Slaughter” has a man versus man conflict, while the conflict in “The Lottery” is between the man and society.
- Dahl, Roald. “Lamb to the Slaughter.” Classic Shorts, classicshorts.com/stories/lamb. Accessed 21Aug.2017
- Jackson, Shirley. “The Lottery”. Fullreads,fullreads.com/literature/the-lottery. Accessed 12Sep.2017