ShirleyJackson’s “The Lottery” is a great example of how an author undermines herreaders’ expectations.
When we hear the word lottery, we think of all the grandiose, materialisticthings we could buy with the.Little do we actually know that Jackson’s version of “winning” is a lot darkerthan just receiving the monetary reward. Jacksoncreates a disposition for the reader, describing small town people that summerday as clear with a fresh warmness in the air and blindfolded by the respectfor tradition and culture.Jackson gives the readers a welcoming environment by providing a title thatwould make the story seem straightforward and rewarding but definitely is notthe case in the final outcome of the story.As the story leads on, the reader will then be able to realize the mysteriouscharacteristic of the towns actual tradition. It becomes clear that this story is full ofhorrifying possibilities that make us see the factual horror of “The Lottery”by Shirley Jackson.
Shirley Jacksondescribes the lottery as among the traditions of the town that is performedannually. A tradition that will be upheld by the people. On this day the belief is that carryingon the tradition of the lottery will bring sanctuary to their crops and thattheir corn will suffer and it would be catastrophic to their village if theydon’t uphold this tradition. Thetown promotes harmony and unity but yet it is mandatory that every member ofthe town participates in the lottery. The winner of the lottery ironically isthe person who is sacrificed and gets stoned to death by the rest of thevillagers as a form of ceremonial praise to their God. In this story, one of the villagersTessie, has picked the paper with the black mark from the box and then is stonedto death. Thepeople in the village see this performance as the norm, since this is theirtradition; to sacrifice one person on a yearly basis for the nutrition of theircorn and of their crops. The circumstance makes a terrible scene to the readersince by mention of a lottery, one expects that the winner receives anextravagant prize.
However, the reality is far grimmer as the winner receives asacrificial death, by way of an unseeingly, and unspeakable tradition (Yildirim2014). In “The Lottery”,numerous examples portray the devotedness of the community as a result of thelottery. For example, “Soon the men began to gather. surveying their ownchildren, speaking of planting and rain, tractors and taxes. They stood together,away from the pile of stones in the corner, and their jokes were quiet and theysmiled rather than laughed. The women, wearing faded house dresses andsweaters, came shortly after their menfolk.
They greeted one another andexchanged bits of gossip as they went to join their husbands” (Jackson 2009). Not only does the tradition mark aday of socialism and joy to the town, but also marks an important day of thesacrificial submission which secures the growth of the towns’ crops. Every personin the community praises this day and willingly looks forward to it with enthusiasm.
Once the sacrifice is made and the marked paper is picked, they are confidentthat their crops will flourish well and look forward to a feast once they produce.Jackson shows that anybody who views the tradition of the lottery as evil, wasignorant and would be held accountable if anything went wrong in the town. Jacksons story of “TheLottery” tricks her readers because of the distinction between the parts ofnormal day to day small community ideal life, vice the horrific reality of what”The Lottery” really means and represents. Themanner of the story rapidly changes once the readers acknowledge what thepurpose of the lottery truly is.There is something exceptionally cryptic and unusual about a town that leavesthe reader with many inquiries regarding why it is how it is, and how it got tobe to be this way. Jacksonleaves her viewers with a great theme that can be useful to any culture at any periodof time.
Ursula Leguin’s “The Wife’s Story”, Is anothergreat example of how the author undermines the reader and manipulates yourthoughts. Leguinwill make you think the complete opposite of what you want to believe. Not until the end of the story youwill actual learn that you have been misled from the start. Thewife’sperspective of her husband’s changing in character and his everyday habits deliberatesthe differences in the type of person he is when the story starts and how he startsto change as the story leads on. LeGuin’s drive for writing this is to give her readers a diverting mystery as shediscusses the order of actions that leads to the death of her husband and thetransformation he goes through. Le Guins manner of the story changes sporadicallythroughout, moving from a shadowy manner as she talked about how she didn’tknow what could be happening to her husband when she spoke of him in thebeginning of the story. This all leading”The Wife’s Story” to the downfall of horrifying actions as the story continues. TheWife’s Story begins with the wife describing what she cherishes most about herhusband, how they met and how she had come to love him.
“He was always gentle. If you’d have seen himplaying with the children, anybody who saw him with the children would haveknown that there wasn’t any bad in him, not one mean bone” (Kennedy 2008). The setting comes across like anormal human family and nothing appears to be out of the ordinary. She tells how they moved in together,forcing her sister to move out. She describestheir kids they shared together.The first twist was when one of the children was terrified of her Father. “Hecome in and she got scared?looking,stiff, with her eyes wide, and then she began to cry and try to hide behind me.She didn’t yet talk plain but she was saying over and over, “Make it go away!Make it go away!” (Kennedy 2008).
This showed that the child was scared of thischange he was going through, which was him actually turning into awerewolf. Later in the story the wifeexplains that the husband was looked up to and had such a beautiful voice. “Hehad such a beautiful voice, and he’d lead off strong, and the others followingand joining in, high voices and low. It brings the shivers on me now to thinkof it, hearing it, nights when I’d stayed home from meeting when the children werebabies — the singing coming up through the trees there, and the moonlight,summer nights, the full moon shining” (Kennedy 2008). Before you get to the true endingand hear this you just think that he’s a great singer and that could be why heis idolized.But once you read the story you can see that he comes off as the alpha malewolf and has the loudest howl that the rest of the pack follows. Leguin leads us to thinkthat her husband’s changes are signs of infidelity.
For example, “So ithappened that way maybe three times or four. He’d come back late and worn out,and pretty near cross for one so sweet?temperednot wanting to talk about it. Ifigured everybody got to bust out now and then, and nagging never helpedanything.
But it did begin to worry me. Not so much thathe went, but that he come back so tired and strange. Even, he smelled strange” (Kennedy2008). This comes across likethe husband is out all night and tired when he comes home. These are normalsigns that don’t necessarily mean he would be unfaithful but they are the normfor people who lie and cheat. Seems insecurities bring up suspicion even in thebest relationships like the one the Wife describes them to have.
“What is that, those smells on you?All over you!” And he said, “I don’t know,” real short, and made like he wassleeping.But he went down when he thought I wasn’t noticing, and washed and washedhimself. But those smells stayed in his hair, and in our bed, for days” (Kennedy2008). All these signs lead the reader to believe that this story is about aloving husband that starts to change and shows of lying. It brings us tosympathize with the wife and believe that the husband is a “monster”.
When thestory unfolds and we see that the husbands change was out of his control, itmakes us sympathize with the husband. The Wife’s Story is agreat story that reverses our minds.What makes this story a perfect example of how the author undermines usthroughout much of the story, is how the reader believes the story is about ahuman family. She suggests that the father is abusing the children and thestruggles of a husband and wife relationship. Their life in a small town innear the woods and the sister bond. But in the end, she undermines ourexpectations and forces us to question what we are thinking and causing thereader to go back and re-read the story again.
The two storiesdescribed above are prime examples how an author may use commonly used words todescribe a totally uncommon or strange situation. In “The Lottery”, the town uses the lotterysystem to choose a person that would suffer an unimaginable death to some waybenefit the communities’ crops. This intoday’s society would seem insane to even suggest. Compared once again to “The Wife’s Story”,words like, husband, hard worker, and lodge meetings, suggest that thecharacter being described is a person, because those words seem unique only tohumans. When referring to animals, matemay be more appropriate, rather than husband.
Since husband refers to the male in a religious, institutionarrangement. The two stories do a verygood job at referring to normally used words that would have one specificmeaning, to describe a completely different setting. Causing the reader to look further into thestory and develop the conclusion for himself.