The Lottery | Study Guide

Shirley Jackson

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The Lottery | Quotes


The people of the village began to gather in the square, between the post office and the bank.


The story's opening paragraph references some typical features of a small town to establish that the setting could be anywhere.


No one liked to upset even as much tradition as was represented by the black box.


The town relies on tradition as both a binding element and a crutch. The villagers resist Mr. Summers's attempts to move them into the future by getting a new box. The old black box has come to represent their past and their way of life.


So much of the ritual had been forgotten or discarded.


To give a sense of history and longevity to the ritual, Jackson adds narrative details about lotteries in years past, including the stories people tell about past lotteries. Passed-down stories have become part of the mythology of the community.


Get up there, Bill.

Tessie Hutchinson

Tessie Hutchinson lightly goads her husband into doing his duty for the town. When she is chosen as the lottery's victim, readers recall that she was a willing participant in the ritual in years past.


Lottery in June, corn be heavy soon.

Old Man Warner

The old saying connects a summertime lottery to the harvesting of corn, suggesting an origin for the ritual that is no longer relevant to the community.


There's always been a lottery.

Old Man Warner

Old Man Warner, as the oldest man in town, is the staunchest supporter of the lottery. At the same time he offers no defense for the ritual.


Be a good sport, Tessie.

Mrs. Delacroix

Ignoring the barbarity of the ritual lottery, sportsmanship is held up as an example of the civility that preserves the community. Mrs. Delacroix and other villagers think Mrs. Hutchinson should accept the fact that by participating, she knew there was a chance she would be selected.


People ain't the way they used to be.

Old Man Warner

Old Man Warner complains about the fact that Tessie and one of Nancy's friends have expressed objection and fear about the selection of the Hutchinson family. He believes each member of the town should accept the process as it has always been conducted.


All right, folks. Let's finish quickly.

Mr. Summers

Speaking for the townspeople, Mr. Summers shows that the group wants to escape into the denial of the impact of their violence by getting back to their work.


It isn't fair, it isn't right.

Tessie Hutchinson

Tessie cries out in an impulse toward self-preservation. As a willing participant of past lotteries, her evocation of fairness and justice comes only when she herself is chosen as the victim of the lottery.

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