The Lottery by Shirley Jackson Discussion


Answer the following in reference to

The Lottery

by Shirley Jackson:

1.What did you first think of when you heard/saw the title of the story? If you had to suggest a different title, what would it be? Why?

2.What are two ways you would describe Tessie Hutchinson’s personality? Give a specific example from the story to show/prove each one (you should not use the same example for each one).

3.Jackson uses various symbols in this story. Give one example of a human symbol, and one example of a non-human symbol. Make sure you explain what each one symbolizes.

4.Throughout the story, Jackson gives us certain clues that point to/foreshadow the story’s ending. List any two of them.

5.Explain (in 4-5 sentences) what you think is the main theme of this story.

women, standing by their husbands, began to
call to their children, and the children came
reluctantly, having to be called four or five
times. Bobby Martin ducked under his
mother’s grasping hand and ran, laughing,
back to the pile of stones. His father spoke up
sharply, and Bobby came quickly and took his
place between his father and his oldest
The lottery was conducted–as were the
square dances, the teen club, the Halloween
program–by Mr. Summers who had time and
energy to devote to civic activities. He was a
round-faced, jovial man and he ran the coal
business, and people were sorry for him
because he had no children and his wife was a
scold. When he arrived in the square, carrying
the black wooden box, there was a murmur of
conversation among the villagers, and he
waved and called, “Little late today, folks.”
The postmaster, Mr. Graves, followed him,
carrying a three- legged stool, and the stool
was put in the center of the square and Mr.
Summers set the black box down on it. The
villagers kept their distance, leaving a space
between themselves and the stool. and when
Mr. Summers said, “Some of you fellows want
to give me a hand?” there was a hesitation
before two men, Mr. Martin and his oldest
son, Baxter, came forward to hold the box
steady on the stool while Mr. Summers stirred
up the papers inside it.
The original paraphernalia for the
lottery had been lost long ago, and the black
box now resting on the stool had been put
into use even before Old Man Warner, the
oldest man in town, was born. Mr. Summers
spoke frequently to the villagers about making
a new box, but no one liked to upset even as
much tradition as was represented by the
black box. There was a story that the present
box had been made with some pieces of the
box that had preceded it, the one that had
been constructed when the first people settled
down to make a village here. Every year, after
the lottery, Mr. Summers began talking again
about a new box, but every year the subject
was allowed to fade off without anything’s
being done. The black box grew shabbier each
The Lottery
By Shirley Jackson
The morning of June 27th was clear and
sunny, with the fresh warmth of a fullsummer day; the flowers were blossoming
profusely and the grass was richly green. The
people of the village began to gather in the
square, between the post office and the bank,
around ten o’clock; in some towns there were
so many people that the lottery took two days
and had to be started on June 26th but in this
village, where there were only about three
hundred people, the whole lottery took less
than two hours, so it could begin at ten
o’clock in the morning and still be through in
time to allow the villagers to get home for
noon dinner.
The children assembled first, of course.
School was recently over for the summer, and
the feeling of liberty sat uneasily on most of
them; they tended to gather together quietly
for a while before they broke into boisterous
play. and their talk was still of the classroom
and the teacher, of books and reprimands.
Bobby Martin had already stuffed his pockets
full of stones, and the other boys soon
followed his example, selecting the smoothest
and roundest stones; Bobby and Harry Jones
and Dickie Delacroix– the villagers
pronounced this name “Dellacroy”–eventually
made a great pile of stones in one corner of
the square and guarded it against the raids of
the other boys. The girls stood aside, talking
among themselves, looking over their
shoulders at rolled in the dust or clung to the
hands of their older brothers or sisters.
Soon the men began to gather,
surveying their own children, speaking of
planting and rain, tractors and taxes. They
stood together, away from the pile of stones
in the corner, and their jokes were quiet and
they smiled rather than laughed. The women,
wearing faded house dresses and sweaters,
came shortly after their menfolk. They greeted
one another and exchanged bits of gossip as
they went to join their husbands. Soon the
year: by now it was no longer completely
black but splintered badly along one side to
show the original wood color, and in some
places faded or stained.
Mr. Martin and his oldest son, Baxter,
held the black box securely on the stool until
Mr. Summers had stirred the papers
thoroughly with his hand. Because so much of
the ritual had been forgotten or discarded, Mr.
Summers had been successful in having slips
of paper substituted for the chips of wood
that had been used for generations. Chips of
wood, Mr. Summers had argued. had been all
very well when the village was tiny, but now
that the population was more than three
hundred and likely to keep on growing, it was
necessary to use something that would fit
more easily into he black box. The night
before the lottery, Mr. Summers and Mr.
Graves made up the slips of paper and put
them in the box, and it was then taken to the
safe of Mr. Summers’ coal company and
locked up until Mr. Summers was ready to
take it to the square next morning. The rest of
the year, the box was put way, sometimes one
place, sometimes another; it had spent one
year in Mr. Graves’s barn and another year
underfoot in the post office, and sometimes it
was set on a shelf in the Martin grocery and
left there.
There was a great deal of fussing to be
done before Mr. Summers declared the lottery
open. There were the lists to make up–of
heads of families, heads of households in each
family, members of each household in each
family. There was the proper swearing-in of
Mr. Summers by the postmaster, as the
official of the lottery; at one time, some
people remembered, there had been a recital
of some sort, performed by the official of the
lottery, a perfunctory. tuneless chant that had
been rattled off duly each year; some people
believed that the official of the lottery used to
stand just so when he said or sang it, others
believed that he was supposed to walk among
the people, but years and years ago this p3rt
of the ritual had been allowed to lapse. There
had been, also, a ritual salute, which the
official of the lottery had had to use in
addressing each person who came up to draw
from the box, but this also had changed with
time, until now it was felt necessary only for
the official to speak to each person
approaching. Mr. Summers was very good at
all this; in his clean white shirt and blue jeans,
with one hand resting carelessly on the black
box. he seemed very proper and important as
he talked interminably to Mr. Graves and the
Just as Mr. Summers finally left off
talking and turned to the assembled villagers,
Mrs. Hutchinson came hurriedly along the
path to the square, her sweater thrown over
her shoulders, and slid into place in the back
of the crowd. “Clean forgot what day it was,”
she said to Mrs. Delacroix, who stood next to
her, and they both laughed softly. “Thought
my old man was out back stacking wood,”
Mrs. Hutchinson went on,” and then I looked
out the window and the kids was gone, and
then I remembered it was the twenty-seventh
and came a-running.” She dried her hands on
her apron, and Mrs. Delacroix said, “You’re in
time, though. They’re still talking away up
Mrs. Hutchinson craned her neck to see
through the crowd and found her husband
and children standing near the front. She
tapped Mrs. Delacroix on the arm as a
farewell and began to make her way through
the crowd. The people separated goodhumoredly to let her through: two or three
people said. in voices just loud enough to be
heard across the crowd, “Here comes your,
Missus, Hutchinson,” and “Bill, she made it
after all.” Mrs. Hutchinson reached her
husband, and Mr. Summers, who had been
waiting, said cheerfully. “Thought we were
going to have to get on without you, Tessie.”
Mrs. Hutchinson said, grinning, “Wouldn’t
have me leave m’dishes in the sink, now,
would you, Joe?,” and soft laughter ran
through the crowd as the people stirred back
into position after Mrs. Hutchinson’s arrival.
“Well, now,” Mr. Summers said soberly,
“guess we better get started, get this over
with, so’s we can go back to work. Anybody
ain’t here?”
“Dunbar.” several people said. “Dunbar.
Mr. Summers consulted his list. “Clyde
Dunbar.” he said. “That’s right. He’s broke his
leg, hasn’t he? Who’s drawing for him?”
“Me. I guess,” a woman said. and Mr.
Summers turned to look at her. “Wife draws
for her husband.” Mr. Summers said. “Don’t
you have a grown boy to do it for you,
Janey?” Although Mr. Summers and everyone
else in the village knew the answer perfectly
well, it was the business of the official of the
lottery to ask such questions formally. Mr.
Summers waited with an expression of polite
interest while Mrs. Dunbar answered.
“Horace’s not but sixteen vet.” Mrs.
Dunbar said regretfully. “Guess I gotta fill in
for the old man this year.”
“Right.” Sr. Summers said. He made a
note on the list he was holding. Then he
asked, “Watson boy drawing this year?”
A tall boy in the crowd raised his hand.
“Here,” he said. “I’m drawing for my mother
and me.” He blinked his eyes nervously and
ducked his head as several voices in the crowd
said things like “Good fellow, luck” and “Glad
to see your mother’s got a man to do it.”
“Well,” Mr. Summers said, “guess that’s
everyone. Old Man Warner make it?”
“Here,” a voice said. and Mr. Summers
A sudden hush fell on the crowd as Mr.
Summers cleared his throat and looked at the
list. “All ready?” he called. “Now, I’ll read the
names–heads of families first–and the men
come up and take a paper out of the box.
Keep the paper folded in your hand without
looking at it until everyone has had a turn.
Everything clear?”
The people had done it so many times
that they only half listened to the directions:
most of them were quiet, wetting their lips,
not looking around. Then Mr. Summers raised
one hand high and said, “Adams.” A man
disengaged himself from the crowd and came
forward. “Hi. Steve.” Mr. Summers said, and
Mr. Adams said, “Hi. Joe.” They grinned at
one another humorlessly and nervously. Then
Mr. Adams reached into the black box and
took out a folded paper. He held it firmly by
one corner as he turned and went hastily back
to his place in the crowd where he stood a
little apart from his family, not looking down
at his hand.
“Allen.” Mr. Summers said.
“Anderson…. Bentham.”
“Seems like there’s no time at all
between lotteries any more.” Mrs. Delacroix
said to Mrs. Graves in the back row.
“Seems like we got through with the last
one only last week.”
“Time sure goes fast,” Mrs. Graves said.
“Clark…. Delacroix”
“There goes my old man.” Mrs.
Delacroix said. She held her breath while her
husband went forward.
“Dunbar,” Mr. Summers said, and Mrs.
Dunbar went steadily to the box while one of
the women said, “Go on, Janey,” and another
said, “There she goes.”
“We’re next.” Mrs. Graves said. She
watched while Mr. Graves came around from
the side of the box, greeted Mr. Summers
gravely and selected a slip of paper from the
box. By now, all through the crowd there
were men holding the small folded papers in
their large hand, turning them over and over
nervously. Mrs. Dunbar and her two sons
stood together, Mrs. Dunbar holding the slip
of paper.
“Harburt…. Hutchinson.”
“Get up there, Bill,” Mrs. Hutchinson
said. and the people near her laughed.
“They do say,” Mr. Adams said to Old
Man Warner, who stood next to him, “that
over in the north village they’re talking of
giving up the lottery.”
Old Man Warner snorted. “Pack of
crazy fools,” he said. “Listening to the young
folks, nothing’s good enough for them. Next
thing you know, they’ll be wanting to go back
to living in caves, nobody work any more, live
hat way for a while. Used to be a saying about
‘Lottery in June, corn be heavy soon.’ First
thing you know, we’d all be eating stewed
chickweed and acorns. There’s always been a
lottery,” he added petulantly. “Bad enough to
see young Joe Summers up there joking with
“Some places have already quit
lotteries.” Mrs. Adams said.
“Nothing but trouble in that,” Old Man
Warner said stoutly. “Pack of young fools.”
“Martin.” And Bobby Martin watched
his father go forward. “Overdyke…. Percy.”
“I wish they’d hurry,” Mrs. Dunbar said
to her older son. “I wish they’d hurry.”
“They’re almost through,” her son said.
“You get ready to run tell Dad,” Mrs.
Dunbar said.
Mr. Summers called his own name and
then stepped forward precisely and selected a
slip from the box. Then he called, “Warner.”
“Seventy-seventh year I been in the
lottery,” Old Man Warner said as he went
through the crowd. “Seventy-seventh time.”
“Watson” The tall boy came awkwardly
through the crowd. Someone said, “Don’t be
nervous, Jack,” and Mr. Summers said, “Take
your time, son.”
After that, there was a long pause, a
breathless pause, until Mr. Summers. holding
his slip of paper in the air, said, “All right,
fellows.” For a minute, no one moved, and
then all the slips of paper were opened.
Suddenly, all the women began to speak at
once, saving. “Who is it?,” “Who’s got it?,” “Is
it the Dunbars?,” “Is it the Watsons?” Then
the voices began to say, “It’s Hutchinson. It’s
Bill,” “Bill Hutchinson’s got it.”
“Go tell your father,” Mrs. Dunbar said
to her older son.
People began to look around to see the
Hutchinsons. Bill Hutchinson was standing
quiet, staring down at the paper in his hand.
Suddenly, Tessie Hutchinson shouted to Mr.
Summers. “You didn’t give him time enough
to take any paper he wanted. I saw you. It
wasn’t fair!”
“Be a good sport, Tessie,” Mrs.
Delacroix called, and Mrs. Graves said, “All of
us took the same chance.”
“Shut up, Tessie,” Bill Hutchinson said.
“Well, everyone,” Mr. Summers said,
“that was done pretty fast, and now we’ve got
to be hurrying a little more to get done in
time.” He consulted his next list. “Bill,” he
said, “you draw for the Hutchinson family.
You got any other households in the
“There’s Don and Eva,” Mrs.
Hutchinson yelled. “Make them take their
“Daughters draw with their husbands’
families, Tessie,” Mr. Summers said gently.
“You know that as well as anyone else.”
“It wasn’t fair,” Tessie said.
“I guess not, Joe.” Bill Hutchinson said
regretfully. “My daughter draws with her
husband’s family; that’s only fair. And I’ve got
no other family except the kids.”
“Then, as far as drawing for families is
concerned, it’s you,” Mr. Summers said in
explanation, “and as far as drawing for
households is concerned, that’s you, too.
“Right,” Bill Hutchinson said.
“How many kids, Bill?” Mr. Summers
asked formally.
“Three,” Bill Hutchinson said.
“There’s Bill, Jr., and Nancy, and little
Dave. And Tessie and me.”
“All right, then,” Mr. Summers said.
“Harry, you got their tickets back?”
Mr. Graves nodded and held up the
slips of paper. “Put them in the box, then,”
Mr. Summers directed. “Take Bill’s and put it
“I think we ought to start over,” Mrs.
Hutchinson said, as quietly as she could. “I
tell you it wasn’t fair. You didn’t give him time
enough to choose. Everybody saw that.”
Mr. Graves had selected the five slips
and put them in the box. and he dropped all
the papers but those onto the ground, where
the breeze caught them and lifted them off.
“Listen, everybody,” Mrs. Hutchinson
was saying to the people around her.
“Ready, Bill?” Mr. Summers asked. and
Bill Hutchinson, with one quick glance
around at his wife and children nodded.
“Remember,” Mr. Summers said. “take
the slips and keep them folded until each
person has taken one. Harry, you help little
Dave.” Mr. Graves took the hand of the little
boy, who came willingly with him up to the
box. “Take a paper out of the box, Davy.” Mr.
Summers said. Davy put his hand into the box
and laughed. “Take just one paper.” Mr.
Summers said. “Harry, you hold it for him.”
Mr. Graves took the child’s hand and
removed the folded paper from the tight fist
and held it while little Dave stood next to him
and looked up at him wonderingly.
“Nancy next,” Mr. Summers said. Nancy
was twelve, and her school friends breathed
heavily as she went forward switching her
skirt, and took a slip daintily from the box.
“Bill, Jr.,” Mr. Summers said, and Billy, his
face red and his feet overlarge, near knocked
the box over as he got a paper out. “Tessie,”
Mr. Summers said. She hesitated for a minute,
looking around defiantly and then set her lips
and went up to the box. She snatched a paper
out and held it behind her.
“Bill,” Mr. Summers said, and Bill
Hutchinson reached into the box and felt
around, bringing his hand out at last with the
slip of paper in it.
The crowd was quiet. A girl whispered,
“I hope it’s not Nancy,” and the sound of the
whisper reached the edges of the crowd.
“It’s not the way it used to be.” Old
Man Warner said clearly. “People ain’t the way
they used to be.”
“All right,” Mr. Summers said. “Open
the papers. Harry, you open little Dave’s.”
Mr. Graves opened the slip of paper and
there was a general sigh through the crowd as
he held it up and everyone could see that it
was blank. Nancy and Bill, Jr. opened theirs at
the same time and both beamed and laughed,
turning around to the crowd and holding their
slips of paper above their heads.
“Tessie,” Mr. Summers said. There was
a pause, and then Mr. Summers looked at Bill
Hutchinson, and Bill unfolded his paper and
showed it. It was blank.
“It’s Tessie,” Mr. Summers said, and his
voice was hushed. “Show us her paper, Bill.”
Bill Hutchinson went over to his wife
and forced the slip of paper out of her hand.
It had a black spot on it, the black spot Mr.
Summers had made the night before with the
heavy pencil in the coal company office. Bill
Hutchinson held it up, and there was a stir in
the crowd.
“All right, folks.” Mr. Summers said.
“Let’s finish quickly.”
Although the villagers had forgotten the
ritual and lost the original black box, they still
remembered to use stones. The pile of stones
the boys had made earlier was ready; there
were stones on the ground with the blowing
scraps of paper that had come out of the box
Delacroix selected a stone so large she had to
pick it up with both hands and turned to Mrs.
Dunbar. “Come on,” she said. “Hurry up.”
Mrs. Dunbar had small stones in both
hands, and she said, gasping for breath. “I
can’t run at all. You’ll have to go ahead and I’ll
catch up with you.”
The children had stones already. And
someone gave little Davy Hutchinson few
Tessie Hutchinson was in the center of
a cleared space by now and she held her
hands out desperately as the villagers moved
in on her. “It isn’t fair,” she said. A stone hit
her on the side of the head. Old Man Warner
was saying, “Come on, come on, everyone.”
Steve Adams was in the front of the crowd of
villagers, with Mrs. Graves beside him.
“It isn’t fair, it isn’t right,” Mrs.
Hutchinson screamed, and then they were
upon her.

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