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The Lottery

The Lottery


by Shirley Jackson

Mr. (Joe) Summers

Character Analysis

Unlike many characters in "The Lottery," we find out a lot about Mr. Summers. He's married to "a scold" and has no children, so the villagers feel sorry for him – even though he runs a coal business and "[has] time and energy to devote to civic activities (like the square dances, the teen club, the Halloween program, and of course, the lottery)" (4). This tells you something about the priorities of the villagers: they appear to place more emphasis on a traditional family life than on the kind of worldly success that Mr. Summers has achieved.

Mr. Summers is quite the innovator: he wants to make a new black box because the old one is getting shabby (a suggestion the villagers don't take to: "no one liked to upset even as much tradition as was represented by the black box" [5]). He has had more success getting the villagers to use strips of paper instead of chips of wood when drawing for the lottery. He introduces this notion in the name of progress, pointing out that chips of wood may have been fine when the village was small, but now that the population is growing, they needed to use something that would fit more easily into the box. Mr. Summers is generally a wizard of efficiency: "he [seems] very proper and important as he [talks] interminably to Mr. Graves and the Martins" (8).

Mr. Summers is like the face of progress in the village; that association we talked about in the "Character Analysis" on "The Boys" between liberty and summer also works here with Mr. Summers (summer, Summers – get it?). Like the boys, Mr. Summers is filled with energy, but unlike the boys, he doesn't direct that enthusiasm to the root of the lottery, the stones. Instead, he works wholeheartedly to give the lottery a new face for the 20th century; he suggests strips of paper instead of chips of wood to save space, but what is paper except milled wood?

Mr. Summers cares about surface and not content. But behind all of his reforming – his call for a new box and paper instead of wood – there is always the silent truth of Mr. Graves (graves, Graves – get it?).

Mr. (Joe) Summers Timeline