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The Lottery by Shirley Jackson. Short Story Synopsis

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A Synopsis of The Lottery

In the short story The Lottery, there is a small town in America with only 300 people living there. The date is June 27, and everyone gathers for the lottery. The town’s children, who have no school in the summer, walk around and gather stones that they place in their pockets. Soon, all men, women, and children gather in the town square. Mr. Summers, a man sympathized because of his laborious life and his unpleasant wife, runs the town lottery. He and the postmaster, Mr. Graves, also gather in the town square. In his hands, Mr. Summers holds the black box containing all the lottery cards, although this black box is not the original. The original black box was lost several decades ago. He asks the residents if they should replace the current black box because of its poor condition, but they refuse to break tradition.

However, the residents agree to replace the traditional wood chips with regular paper. Mr. Summers randomizes the slips of paper, which he and Mr. Graves made the night before and locked up at Mr. Summers’ coal company. Mr. Summers and Mr. Graves create a list containing all families of the town. The town recalls that there also used to be a ritual salute taking place at this time, but it is now long gone. Tessie Hutchinson, the wife of Bill Hutchinson, runs hurriedly in order to make it in time for the lottery. She stands in the back of the crowd and tells another woman that she saw no one at her house, so she remembered the important date. She hears people scoffing at her once she realizes she is late. Clyde Dunbar is not present at the lottery because he has a broken leg. In his place is his wife, Mrs. Dunbar. Mrs. Dunbar would have had her son fill in his father’s position, but he is below the age of sixteen. Jack Watson says he is drawing for his mother and father. Mr. Summers makes sure that Old Man Warner, the town elder, is present for the event.

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Subsequently, Mr. Summers takes a roll call of the town’s families. Old Man Warner and Mr. Summers then discuss how the village to the north has cancelled the lottery. Old Man Warner argues that canceling the lottery in this village would cause chaos and that they might as well go back to living in caves. Mr. Summers then hands out the paper slips to each family, but Bill Hutchinson has little time to grab one. Tessie Hutchinson is angry over this and deems it unfair since she and her husband also have three children. They allow the family to redo it, and Mr. Summers individually hands a slip of paper to each member of the Hutchinson family. The three children, Nancy, Bill Jr., and Dave show the crowd blank sheets. Bill also has a blank sheet, so Mr. Summers guarantees that Tessie has the black-spotted sheet. It turns out that she does have the marked sheet, and once again, she deems the lottery unfair. The residents enact a part of the lottery’s tradition that has not been forgotten. Everyone gathers stones, surrounds Tessie, and then they all stone her.

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