Setting

Time and physical setting

The events in the short story “The Lottery” by Shirley Jackson take place in a fictional society which organises a yearly lottery that ends with the stoning to death of one of its community members.

The lottery takes place in the summer, usually on the 27th of June. Bigger communities, however, have to organise a two-day lottery: “in some towns there were so many people that the lottery took two days and had to be started on June 26th” .

The story begins in an unnamed village on the traditional date: “The morning of June 27th was clear and sunny, with the fresh warmth of a full-summer day; the flowers were blossoming profusely and the grass was richly green. The people of the village began to gather in the square.” . The fact that the village is unnamed, and that it is one of many communities which organise the lottery also suggest that the society portrayed in the story is accustomed to violence.

It is important to notice that the narrator’s initial description of the physical setting creates a peaceful and pleasant atmosphere, which does not give much indication that the lottery will end with the murder of one of the villagers. As the lottery takes place, tension is built through hints that the villagers begin to feel uneasy, suggesting that the lottery is not the happy event readers might imagine it to be: “By now, all through the crowd there were men holding the small folded papers in their large hands, turning them over and over nervously.”

Social setting

The social setting focuses on aspects related to living in a traditional, rural society.

Tradition

The villagers seem to go along with the lottery because it is a “given” in their society. Old Man Warner at one point offers a hint that the original purpose of the lottery might have been some kind of religious sacrifice to ensure a good harvest: “ ‘Lottery in June, corn be heavy soon’ ” . However, most of the villagers simply seem to go along with it becaus...

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