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Use of Foreshadowing and Dramatic Irony in The Lottery

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‘The Lottery,’ written by Shirley Jackson, is a short story about an obscure village that holds a ‘lottery’ in which an individual of any age is randomly chosen to be stoned to death. The story illustrates the process and which villager was selected to be stoned to death. The stoned person is perceived as the year’s sacrifice and is believed to provide the village with good crops for the entirety of the year. Jackson uses many literary devices to further convey themes of the unfairness of persecution and blindly following traditions and customs. Throughout the story, Structure/setting, characterization, foreshadowing, point of view, imagery, symbolism, and irony are all applied to help reveal these themes.

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​There are two main themes in this story. The first theme being the unfairness of persecution which is displayed when Tessie Hutchinson picks the marked slip of paper. She has done nothing unlawful or improper, but in this village’s culture, anyone can be chosen to die no matter who they are. Being chosen can be regarded as a theme that applies to the real world. If we look back in history, the Spanish used to invade Native American lands, and they would murder them to make the land theirs. This demonstrates how the unfairness of prosecution is a real thing, that happens to innocent people all the time. The second theme of the story is blindly following traditions and customs. There are many people in the world, and this results in their being many traditions and customs that take place. Sometimes we adhere to these traditions and customs without even choosing to. We feel like since it has been going on forever; we have to continue doing it even if it makes no sense or we don’t believe in it. We can see this in the story because the people are continuing to carry on this tradition of the ‘lottery’ without even knowing how it all started and if it even works. The people say that the lottery must be done for the crops to have a good year, but they suggest nothing about it working in the past. Following traditions and customs, blindly is a serious issue in ‘today’s world and can be seen with many kids who are forced to abide by their ‘culture’s traditions and customs without even having a choice.

​Jackson uses structure and setting to help the reader follow the entire story and understand what is going on throughout the whole thing. She starts by describing the day and what everyone is doing. She describes the day as, ‘Clear and sunny, with the fresh warmth of a full-summer day; the flowers were blossoming profusely, and the grass was richly green.’ By describing the day with such a happy and friendly description, she makes the readers think everything is good in the village. She then says, ‘Bobby Martin had already stuffed his pockets full of stones, and the other boys soon followed his example, selecting the smoothest and roundest stones.’ By adding this, it confuses the reader why these boys are all filling their pockets with stones. This is to add another effect on the reader, which makes them question what the rocks are for, and this makes the reader more drawn into the story. This also helps convey the theme by showing the boys did this as a tradition and have no clue what they are doing this for.

​Characterization occurs more than i may seem in ‘The Lottery.’ Characterization is when the reader gives traits, thoughts, or describes the actions of a person in the story. When Tessie Hutchinson is selected to be stoned, Mrs. Delacroix gets a stone that was, ‘So large she had to pick it up with both hands.’ This characterization shows that her actions meant that she was keen to stone her ‘friend,’ and this gives us reason to believe that Mrs. Delacroix wasn’t very fond of Tessie Hutchinson. Another example of this is in the beginning when it says, ‘Bobby Martin had already stuffed… the smoothest and roundest stones.’ This is characterizing the kids like the most eager to do the actual stoning. This also shows that the kids are innocent because the kids are competing and having fun while seeing who can make the biggest pile of stones, and they ‘don’t even know the consequences that will happen because if these stones. Characterization is in this story to give the reader some background information about who is like what and how they affect the story. The characterization in this story allows the reader to understand the actions that each character carries out and how each character is probably feeling. This helps convey the theme because we see that none of these people have done anything wrong, but someone new has to die each year no matter how innocent they are.

​Foreshadowing is one of the biggest elements that helps Jackson draw the reader into the story and get them more involved. The first example of foreshadowing can be seen in the beginning when the kids are all collecting stones in the town square. This seems like just kids playing around, but when the reader gets to the end, they realize that the kids did this so that they could use these stones to kill someone. Another example is when Tessie Hutchinson arrives late to the meeting. Mr. Summer says, ‘Thought we were going to have to get on without you.’ The reader ‘doesn’t pay any attention to this while reading, but this is foreshadowing that they will be without Tessie Hutchinson after the lottery happens. The author successfully uses foreshadowing to create suspension, which makes the reader more and more interested in what will happen at the end. This successfully draws the reader in and helps convey the theme of the story because now the reader is paying attention to everything that is happening in the story.  

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