by Shirley Jackson
Analysis: Plot Analysis
Most good stories start with a fundamental list of ingredients: the initial situation, conflict, complication, climax, suspense, denouement, and conclusion. Great writers sometimes shake up the recipe and add some spice.
Villagers gather in the square.
The story begins with a sense of liberation. It's a beautiful summer day, the children are out of school, and the villagers have begun assembling in the square to hold a lottery. It is unclear exactly what the prize of this lottery is going to be, and this mystery persists throughout the story. Clearly, the scene has been set for future revelations, which is exactly what the initial situation is supposed to be about.
Bill Hutchinson gets "it." His wife protests.Explanation/Discussion:
This is the first overt moment of discord we see in the story, as Tess Hutchinson disagrees with the result of the lottery. Basically, this has conflict written all over it.
Each member of the Hutchinson family nervously draws from the box.
Things are starting to get fishy. Clearly, winning the lottery does not entail a trip to Hawaii. The plot thickens as we grow closer to discovering who wins the lottery.
Tess Hutchinson wins the lottery.
We've finally reached the climactic moment of the story, when we find out who has won this famous lottery – but we're still left with several mysteries. What exactly is the prize, and why does Tess seem so unhappy about being selected to receive it? These questions are what lead us to the next stage …
Tess Hutchinson protests the lottery.
This whole lottery business is getting weirder and weirder. Tess has won the lottery – so why does she claim it's unfair? We never heard of a California SuperLotto winner protesting the results. We've got growing misgivings about what the prize is, that Tess is so desperate not to get it.
No dice; the villagers surround Tess carrying stones.
Here in the denouement, all suspense is resolved. The villagers ignore Tess's protests as they begin to select the stones they're going to use against here. Suddenly, the penny drops for us, the readers: this lottery winds up in the violent death of its winner. All that's left is the execution.
The villagers begin attacking.
"'It isn't fair, it isn't right,' Mrs. Hutchinson screamed, and then they were upon her" (80). And that's about all we get. Jackson spares us the grisly details, but it's clear that Tess will be stoned to death. The villagers like to finish the lottery in time for lunch, remember?