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Shirley Jackson’s Short Story “The Lottery”

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Foreshadowing is a literary device that is often used by authors of short stories to keep the reader wanting to know more and keep them reading. In Shirley Jackson’s short story “The Lottery,” foreshadowing is utilized many times. “The Lottery’ is tells of a ritual practiced by a village in which every person draws from a box to be stoned to death (sacrificed), in order for a good harvest. Jackson uses foreshadowing to show that the lottery is actually a sacrifice by presenting the reader with symbolic objects, interactions with people, and dialogue to clue the reader in on future events.

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To start, Jackson foreshadows events at the lottery by describing the box in which towns people pick their slip of paper. While describing the lottery ritual, Jackson describes the box by saying “… By now it was not completely black but splintered badly… ” Jackson 1). In this quote the authors says that the black box is in bad shape and it continues to diminish in quality each year.

However, in latent terms, the box and its condition resembles its purpose in the lottery as an omen of death.

The black box is a symbolic object because it is painted with the color associated with death and the ritual that the towns’ people practice also involves death. The box’s condition and color would lead one to infer that it ultimately deals one of the towns’ people’s deaths. Secondly, foreshadowing is present when the author tells of the interactions between villagers. When Mr.. Summers and Mr.. Adams meet in front of the box, Jackson writes “They grinned at one another nervously and humorously’ Jackson 3).

By saying this, the author implies that the two men are nervous and trying to diffuse the tension in the situation by being humorous. The two men are actually nervous because they are picking their and their families tickets for the macabre events that will take place at the lottery ritual. This interaction between characters depicts negative events which the characters know but the reader does not. The reader is being exposed to a turn of events in this quote which is a form of foreshadowing.

Because of the nature of the actions of the men, the reader can predict that omitting bad is going to happen. Last but not least, the author foreshadows the final event of the lottery by using dialogue from Testis Hutchinson. Before the reader is truly exposed to the fact that someone is going to be stoned to death Testis says “It isn’t fair… ” Jackson 6). Testis says this because she is being surrounded by the crowd of people with stones and knows that she is going to die at the hands of the towns’ people.

Up until this quote the reader has been collecting information to understand the conclusion of the tottery. Once Testis is hit in the head with the stone, the reader acknowledges that the lottery is actually a sacrifice. This bit of dialogue confirms the readers’ continual belief throughout the story that the ritual is actually a sacrifice. It also shows that Testis Hutchinson “won” the lottery by being stoned to death for the sake of the harvest. By showing her distress, Testis signals that she is going to be killed by the villagers.

To summarize, Jackson foreshadows the lottery as a sacrifice through symbolic objects, interactions between characters, and dialogue. First off, Jackson describes the box as black and splintered, foreshadowing the types of events that will take place at the lottery. Additionally, interactions between characters reveal tense and uneasy feelings about the lottery ritual. Lastly, the dialogue of Testis Hutchinson indicates a negative event in the story as well. By foreshadowing events and making hints build in clarity throughout the story, Jackson communicates to the reader that the lottery is in fact a sacrifice.

Cite this Shirley Jackson’s Short Story “The Lottery”

Shirley Jackson’s Short Story “The Lottery”. (2017, Jul 19). Retrieved from https://graduateway.com/shirley-jacksons-short-story-the-lottery/

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