Irony of The Setting in The Lottery
The setting set forth by Shirley Jackson in the beginning of The Lottery creates a mood of peacefulness and tranquillity. This setting also creates an image in the mind of the reader, the image of a typical town on a normal summer day. Furthermore, Shirley Jackson uses the setting in The Lottery to foreshadow an ironic ending.
First, Shirley Jackson begins The Lottery by establishing the setting. To begin, she tells the reader what time of day and what time of year the story takes place. This is important to get the reader to focus on what a typical day it is in this small town. The time of day is set in the morning and the time of year is early summer. She also describes that school has just recently let out for summer break, letting the reader infer that the time of year is early summer. The setting of the town is described by the author as that of any normal rural community. Furthermore, she describes the grass as "richly green" and that "the flowers were blooming profusely" (196). These descriptions of the surroundings give the reader a serene felling about the town. Also, these descriptions make the reader feel comfortable about the surroundings as if there was nothing wrong in this quaint town.
Upon reading the first paragraph, Shirley Jackson describes the town in general. The town is first mentioned in the opening paragraph where she sets the location in the town square. She puts in perspective the location of the square "between the post office and the bank" (196). This visualizes for the reader what a small town this is, since everything seems to be centralized at or near the town square. This is also key in that the town square is the location for the remaining part of the story. The town square is an important location for the setting since the ending of the story will be set in this location.
Also, Shirley Jackson creates a comfortable atmosphere while describing the residents of the town. First, she describes the children gathering together and breaking into "boisterous play"(196). Also, the children are described as gathering rocks, which is an action of many normal children. She described the men as gathering together and talking about "planting and rain, tractors and taxes"(196). Finally, she describes the women of this community as "exchanging bits of gossip"(196) which is a common stereotype of women. She creates a mood for the reader of the town and residents of this town on a normal summer morning.
Up to this point in the story Shirley Jackson has not pointed out anything out of the ordinary which would reflect an ironic ending. Upon further reading of the story, Shirley Jackson gives the reader hints about the unusualness of this town. First, she sets the time of day to be mid-morning. This is a clue to an ironic ending since most occurrences of criminal activity happen during the night. Second, she also points out key buildings that surround the town square. Furthermore, she fails to describe a church or a courthouse which are common buildings to all communities. Also, it is odd for this town to celebrate Halloween but not for Christmas or Easter. These are the largest holidays that "normal" people celebrate. In addition, she points out the fact that the children are building "a great pile of stones in one corner of the square"(196).These points should lead the reader to consider that this town is far from normal.
The introduction of the black box is a key turning point for the setting. The black box symbolizes an immoral act to the villagers. This is evident in the fact that "the villagers kept their distance"(196) from the black box. The introduction of the black box into the setting changes the mood and the atmosphere of the residents. After the introduction of the black box the villagers become uneasy around this symbol of evil. Furthermore, the black box is the key that changes the mood from serene and peaceful to ominous.
Further foreshadowing by Shirley Jackson leads the reader to consider the town as peculiar. For instance, the names of the residents foreshadow unfavorable events to occur. Furthermore, the lottery is conducted by Mr. Summers, and the time of year the story is set