Authors often use the setting to foreshadow and reinforce the theme of their story. Shirley Jackson's "The Lottery" is no exception. Jackson uses the setting, character names, and the description of the lottery's black box to strengthen her focus on a view of traditions. The initial setting of "The Lottery" could be thought as misleading. However, Jackson's intention is to establish the story's setting in a regular town on a summer day.
Rather than describing the day as gloomy to alert the reader to of an evil outcome, Jackson spends the first two paragraphs establishing it as a summer day anyone could recall from their own life. The second paragraph calls upon the reader's memory of the beginning of summer vacation, "Their talk was still of the classroom and the teacher, of books and reprimands." These paragraphs draw a common recollection most people share versus alienating the reader. The only unique characteristic we discover about June 27 th is it's lottery day. Jackson also cleverly uses the character names to reinforce the plot of the story. One of the first major characters introduced is Mr.
Summers. Summer often represents a season of life and growing. In this case, it represents the time of the year this tradition is performed. Mr. Summers' name also represents new ideas to an old ritual. Mr.
Summer attempts to introduce several new thoughts to this tradition, "Mr. Summers spoke frequently to the villagers about making a new box." Immediately following the introduction of Mr. Summers with the black box is Mr. Graves with the three legged stool.
This is an obvious reference to death following the result of the lottery tradition. Old Man Warner is another character name specifically mentioned. Mr. Warner represents the older generation, warning against changing the tradition of the lottery. He never explains the reason for the tradition other than his warnings of going against tradition by saying "Lottery in June, corn be heavy soon." and criticizing the other villages who have done away with the lottery. Mrs.
Hutchinson's name also carries symbolism. Her name could be two possible references. One might be to Anne Hutchinson, from the New England 1700's who was exiled by her community for her religious beliefs and eventually killed. In accepting this reference, Tessie Hutchinson becomes the town's martyr who is sacrificed for this tradition. Another reference could come from the word "hutch", referring to a small coop for an animal. In accommodating this meaning, Mrs.
Hutchinson becomes the scapegoat for this year's lottery. Lastly, Jackson's description of the lottery's black box clues readers in about the tradition itself. As often happens in traditions, many of the original pieces and formal procedures surrounding the tradition becomes lost. This is demonstrated by the following sentence: "The original paraphernalia for the lottery had been lost long ago." The condition of the box also reflects the people's feeling towards the lottery. "The black box grew shabbier each year: by now it was no longer completely black, but splintered badly." The assortment of places the black box is stored the rest of the year also reflects the people's apprehensive view on the lottery tradition.
Jackson's description of the box, character names, and setting reinforces the negative vantage point on traditions. Jackson appropriately uses each of these tactics to emphasize the possible immoral and ridiculous traditions in modern society. Traditions which we often carry on simply because that's how it's always been done. Even though the reader might find the conclusion barbaric, the overall point Jackson drives at certainly can not be ignored.