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Death By Chance: The Lottery Essay


Death By Chance

In literature, literary elements such as the point of view from which the story is narrated often help make the story more successful in delivering their message. Certain points of view may be delivered omnisciently where some of the thoughts of characters are shown, or in a limited point of view like this story where the readers only receive the story but not what characters think or feel. The short story, The Lottery, uses a third person limited point of view to help convey the authors message to the reader. In The Lottery a scapegoat is chosen at random by a dark and deadly town tradition. The underlying message in the story is that scapegoats are treated unfairly and often chosen at complete random. The Lottery, by Shirley Jackson, is told in a third person limited point of view to create irony within the story and to make the story more suspenseful thus conveying the message of how unfairly treated scapegoats are by society.

One of the main literary elements created by the point of view from which the story is told is irony. By using the third person limited point of view, the author is able to tell the story without allowing the readers to know what the characters are thinking. The title of the story, The Lottery, is one of the most ironic parts of the whole story. The irony created by the third person limited view is shown when Jackson writes, Bobby Martin had already stuffed his pockets full of stones, and the other boys soon followed by example, selecting the smoothest and roundest

stones (Jackson 209). The reader assumes that the boys are just playing as often young children do, while they are actually getting prepared to stone someone to death. Jackson also uses irony through her point of view to make the characters seem at ease and happy with the lottery although they are probably terrified when she writes, They grinned at one another humorously and nervously. Then Mr. Adams reached into the black box and took out a folded paper (Jackson 211). It is ironic that the characters are smiling although the papers they have chosen may be there death. If they thoughts of the characters were shown it would ruin the story because they would most likely be thinking something like, Please dont let me be the winner, I want to live. Showing the thoughts of the characters would reveal the ending of the story. This irony helps support Jacksons disapproval of scapegoats. The way the author uses a lottery to pick someone to die, which the townspeople believe will bring a bountiful harvest, shows how wrong persecuting people for almost no reason at all really is.

The use of the third person limited point of view is also used to create suspense in the story. The people of the town all seem to be uneasy about the lottery, while as a reader one can not be sure why until the end. The uneasiness of the townspeople and suspense of what the lottery is actually for is shown when Jackson writes, Bill Hutchinson went over to his wife and forced the slip of paper out of her hand. It had a black spot on it, the black spot Mr. Summers had made the night before with the heavy pencil in the coal company office. Bill Hutchinson held it up, and there was a stir in the crowd (Jackson 213). By narrating the story in the third person limited point of view the reader is still in suspense as to what the winner of the lottery gets, and why there is a stir in the crowd. If the author wouldve shown what the characters were thinking instead of them just acting nervous and uneasy the story would be pointless. Jacksons message of how unfairly treated scapegoats are picked is conveyed perfectly by the suspense created by

point of view. The scapegoat in this town is picked by a lottery where the townspeople draw slips of paper from a box; and the winner, who actually ends up being the loser, is the person who draws a slip with a black spot. By using a lottery, which people often deem as a positive, to pick a person to be put to death Jackson shows just how wrong the idea of making people scapegoats is. Suspense is also shown through the third person limited point of view when Jackson writes Although the villagers had forgotten the ritual and lost the original black box, they still remembered to use stones. The pile of stones the boys had made earlier was still ready; there were stones on the ground with the blowing scraps of paper that had come out of the box. Mrs. Delacroix selected a stone so large that she had to pick it up with both hands and turned to Mrs. Dunbar (Jackson 213). The third person-limited point of view works so well in this story that the reader may still not know what is going to take place. At this point in the story any number of things could happen, which shows how well suspense is created by the point of view. If the reader was given the thoughts of the characters, all suspense would be taken away.

The Lottery is able to use the third person-limited point of view in able to create suspense and irony in the story. The reader may also draw that the story shows how wrong it is to make scapegoats out of people in society. If Jackson had used any other point of view than the third person limited then the story would not create any irony or suspense at all. From the beginning the reader develops misconceptions about what the story is headed toward. The title is enough to make the reader believe that something good is going to happen, although there is some foreshadowing into what will actually happen. The story retains much of its suspense and irony until the very end culminating with the reader actually learning that the winner will be stoned to death instead of winning a prize.

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