Study Questions

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Are more characters for or against changing the Lottery in any capacity? Which characters seem to change their minds over the course of the story?


In your opinion, in what time period did this story take place? Where did "The Lottery" take place?


What is the purpose of the Lottery?


There are many questions that seem to go unanswered in "The Lottery," but they do make you think. For instance, what exactly is the purpose of the Lottery and stoning someone to death? Old Man Warner suggested it was sacrificial. There are also many mentions of tradition in the story. Could it be the town is simply afraid of change?

When and where did this story take place? Could this have been my town 50 years ago or is this some place that I could never relate to? It would be really nice to think that the Lottery was taking place in some far-off, backwards country, a long long time ago; however, the first American jeans were made in 1873, and Mr. Summers was wearing jeans. With how long the town claims they had been conducting the Lottery (the new box was older than Old Man Warner), the town needed people in it for at least 78 years. It's difficult to pinpoint a when a where, which may have been Jackson's intention when she wrote "The Lottery," maybe she wanted to keep a broad spectrum so she could relate her work to everyone.


In answer to question #1, most of the characters are against getting rid of the Lottery - they discuss how it has been abolished in other towns, but laugh and scoff at the foolishness of this.  Over the course of time, they have "modernized" the Lottery slightly (replacing the wood chips with paper, etc.), but overall they seem bent on keeping it in existence.  The only character that seems to change her mind over the course of the story is Tessie Hutchinson, once her family has drawn the "winning" ticket.  

I think that Jackson intended to show how indifferent people can be until something directly affects them or someone they care about.  None of the characters care enough to change the system until it is them who is directly affected.  Even though people are nervous and uneasy, and even hope that their friends don't draw the ticket, they don't care enough to change anything until they themselves are in danger.  I think Jackson is making the point that people leave in place societal systems that are cruel, harmful, or outdated (even those that are not as barbaric as a stoning lottery), because they are indifferent and are only motivated to change these systems when they are directly affected.  

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