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 happens to be summertime. Also,
Mr. Summers is helped by Mr. Graves, who has often stored the black box for the
lottery. These names foreshadow a sinister event to occur.
The ending of the story is