The Lottery

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Mr. Joe Summers Character Analysis

The unofficial leader of the village and overseer of the lottery. Mr. Summers volunteers frequently in civic roles, organizing square dances, teen club, and the Halloween party. The other villagers pity him for having no children and an unkind wife. Throughout the lottery’s proceedings he coaxes others to complete the process efficiently.

Mr. Joe Summers Quotes in The Lottery

The The Lottery quotes below are all either spoken by Mr. Joe Summers or refer to Mr. Joe Summers. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
The Juxtaposition of Peace and Violence Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Farrar, Strauss and Giroux edition of The Lottery published in 2005.
The Lottery Quotes

The original paraphernalia for the lottery had been lost long ago, and the black box now resting on the stool had been put into use even before Old Man Warner, the oldest man in town, was born. Mr. Summers spoke frequently to the villagers about making a new box, but no one liked to upset even as much tradition as was represented by the black box. There was a story that the present box had been made with some pieces of the box that had preceded it, the one that had been constructed when the first people settled down to make a village here.

Related Characters: Mr. Joe Summers, Old Man Warner
Related Symbols: The Black Box
Page Number: 292
Explanation and Analysis:

As the villages begin preparing for the annual lottery, the story presents the objects and rituals involved in the lottery. One of these is a black box from which the villagers draw pieces of paper according to their family groups. This passage describes the authority the box itself has in the lottery, and how objects can take on a mysterious power when they have been used as part of a tradition for a long time. Every world religion has significant objects and artifacts, as do many secular traditions, and this passage references this universal idea: humans value traditions and the objects that are associated with them, often for no other reason than because they are old and associated with tradition.

This quote also shows the villagers operating as a collective whole. An individual, such as Mr. Summers, who has a different idea of what to do (in this case, change the black box) doesn’t persist against the popular opinion that the box shouldn’t change. This shows the willingness of individuals to conform to the popular opinions of society, and how such group conformity can even lead to monstrous traditions like the lottery itself.

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Mr. Summers, who had been waiting, said cheerfully, “thought we were going to have to get on without you, Tessie.” Mrs. Hutchinson said, grinning, “Wouldn’t have me leave m’dishes in the sink, now, would you, Joe?” And soft laughter ran through the crowd as the people stirred back into position after Mrs. Hutchinson’s arrival.

Related Characters: Mr. Joe Summers (speaker), Tessie Hutchinson
Page Number: 295
Explanation and Analysis:

Just as the lottery is about to begin, a nearly tardy villager arrives: Tessie Hutchinson. Tessie’s arrival immediately sets her apart from the crowd of villagers, as her late appearance suggests a casual attitude about the proceedings of the lottery. She also makes a joke and gets a positive response, which suggests her relaxed personality and shows how well-liked she is among the villagers.

At this point in the story, the reader is unaware of the grim truth about the lottery, but in retrospect the levity of this passage shows the lightheartedness with which these people treat violence. Both Tessie and Mr. Summers are cheerful, as if at a fun social gathering. Tessie changes when she is singled out by the lottery, but this passage raises the question: would Tessie have continued to be cheerful if she wasn’t the victim of the lottery?

This scene also shows the traditional gender roles of this village. Tessie is washing her dishes, and she jokes to Mr. Summers about whether she should have left them undone. This implies that a husband would chuckle appreciatively at a wife who was dedicated to her work. It is clear from this joke that Tessie doesn’t expect Mr. Summers or her husband to be doing the dishes—such domestic work is reserved exclusively for women.

“Me, I guess,” a woman said, and Mr. Summers turned to look at her. “Wife draws for her husband.” Mr. Summers said. "”Don't you have a grown boy to do it for you, Janey?” “Horace’s not but sixteen yet,” Mrs. Dunbar said regretfully. “Guess I gotta fill in for the old man this year.”

Related Characters: Mr. Joe Summers (speaker), Mrs. Janey Dunbar (speaker), Clyde Dunbar, Horace Dunbar
Page Number: 295
Explanation and Analysis:

The first stage of the lottery requires the head of each household to draw a slip of paper from the black box on behalf of his household. This task is always completed by the men of each family, with one exception this year: Mrs. Dunbar must draw for her incapacitated husband, who cannot attend the lottery. The discussion around this event shows the sexist assumptions behind the system of the lottery itself. The "head of household" is always assumed to be a man, meaning that a grown son will draw for his mother, as Mr. Summers wonders about in this passage.

The women accept this hierarchy—that only men can handle the responsibility of drawing for the lottery—as Mrs. Dunbar's statement and tone shows. She takes on the role of head of her household only “regretfully.” This is one of several passages that show the importance of the structure of the traditional family and the dynamic between men and women to the proceedings of the lottery. The formal proceedings of the lottery highlight the importance the village places on a patriarchal family hierarchy.

Old Man Warner snorted. “Pack of crazy fools,” he said. “Listening to the young folks, nothing’s good enough for them. Next thing you know, they'll be wanting to go back to living in caves, nobody work any more, live that way for a while. Used to be a saying about ‘Lottery in June, corn be heavy soon.’ First thing you know, we’d all be eating stewed chickweed and acorns. There’s always been a lottery,” he added petulantly. “Bad enough to see young Joe Summers up there joking with everybody.”
“Some places have already quit lotteries,” Mrs. Adams said.
“Nothing but trouble in that,” Old Man Warner said stoutly. “Pack of young fools.”

Related Characters: Old Man Warner (speaker), Mrs. Adams (speaker), Mr. Joe Summers
Page Number: 297
Explanation and Analysis:

As the lottery continues, Old Man Warner and Mr. and Mrs. Adams discuss the possibility that the lottery could end in their village, as it has already been dispensed with in other places. Old Man Warner speaks out vehemently against the termination of the lottery. Old Man Warner is a persuasive, if irrational, speaker. He doesn’t argue for the value of the lottery, but instead just belittles those who advocate for its removal, undermining their ideas by calling them “crazy” and “fools.” He also defends the lottery by saying that it is part of the forward progress of society and civilization. He makes this argument by associating the end of the lottery with other regressions, like living in caves, not working, eating primitive food—which are presented as obvious mistakes to the average listener or reader. Old Man Warner places giving up on the lottery in the same foolish category in order to persuade his listeners.

Despite his persuasive speech, Old Man Warner believes in the lottery solely because it is a tradition. He points out that “there’s always been a lottery,” which, in his mind, is a reason to continue it. He has no logical reason for continuing the tradition, except that it is old—just like himself.

“There’s Don and Eva,” Mrs. Hutchinson yelled. “Make them take their chance!”
“Daughters draw with their husbands’ families, Tessie,” Mr. Summers said gently. “You know that as well as anyone else.”

Related Characters: Tessie Hutchinson (speaker), Eva, Don, Mr. Joe Summers
Page Number: 299
Explanation and Analysis:

Tessie continues to protest about the proceedings of the lottery, despite the fact that the villagers and her husband try to silence her. Tessie’s complaints include her asking that Don and Eva also “take a chance” along with the rest of the family. Although the outcome of the lottery is still unclear to the reader at this point, Tessie’s strong reaction shows that it is not a desirable thing to be the person who picks the marked slip of paper. Although the exact identities of Don and Eva are not explained, this quote describes Eva as a daughter who is participating in the lottery with the family of her husband, Don. This implies that Eva was once a member of the Hutchinson household—probably Tessie’s daughter. Tessie knows the outcome of the lottery, yet she wants to force Don and Eva to also draw in the lottery with her family, presumably because this will increase the number of people participating in stage two of the draw, which only features the Hutchinson family. If more people draw, Tessie herself will be less likely to draw the marked slip of paper.

This quote shows a universal human need for survival and self-protection. Tessie is willing to risk her daughter and her daughter's husband in order to increase the chances of her own survival. Tessie is not a hero, despite her initial self-confidence and protestations against the barbaric lottery. Furthermore, the tradition of a daughter joining her husband to participate in the lottery shows again that women are treated as secondary to men in this village. According to traditional gender roles, a woman marries into her husband’s family, and not the reverse.

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.

Related Characters: Tessie Hutchinson, Bill Hutchinson, Mr. Joe Summers
Related Symbols: The marked slip of paper
Page Number: 301
Explanation and Analysis:

Once the members of the Hutchinson family each draw a slip of paper in stage two of the lottery, the children open theirs and are relieved that their slips of paper are blank. Tessie doesn’t unfold hers until her husband forces her hand open, revealing that she has been chosen by the lottery. This act shows Bill Hutchinson’s dominance over Tessie. When she first appears in the story, Tessie is self-confident and funny, but her husband draws for their family in the lottery, tells her to shut up when she complains, and reveals that she is the victim of the lottery in this scene. All of these actions show Bill Hutchinson following the traditions of the village and the proceedings of the lottery rather than listening to his wife or trying to protect her from the lottery. It is clear that his love for her (if he does love her) is outweighed by his devotion to the tradition of the lottery.

The slip of paper in Tessie’s hand was marked by Mr. Summers with a pencil the night before. This detail shows the contrast between the object of the marked slip of paper and the importance the villagers place on it. The process of making the slip of paper is as mundane and unimportant as it could be. But at the same time, the marked paper decides the very life or death of a person. This reinforces the ridiculousness of the lottery, and how the villagers adhere to it despite many indications that it is insignificant and pointless, in addition to being cruel and harmful. It is only tradition and a fear of change that keeps the village entrenched in this monstrous practice.

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Mr. Joe Summers Character Timeline in The Lottery

The timeline below shows where the character Mr. Joe Summers appears in The Lottery. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
The Lottery
The Juxtaposition of Peace and Violence Theme Icon
Family Structure and Gender Roles Theme Icon
The Power of Tradition Theme Icon
Dystopian Society and Conformity Theme Icon
Mr. Summers , the man who conducts the lottery, arrives. He also organizes the square dances, the... (full context)
The Juxtaposition of Peace and Violence Theme Icon
The Power of Tradition Theme Icon
Dystopian Society and Conformity Theme Icon
...stool in the center of the square and the black box is placed upon it. Mr. Summers asks for help as he stirs the slips of paper in the box. The people... (full context)
The Power of Tradition Theme Icon
Dystopian Society and Conformity Theme Icon
...original ritual of the lottery has been forgotten, and one change that was made was Mr. Summers ’s choice to replace the original pieces of wood with slips of paper, which fit... (full context)
Human Nature Theme Icon
Family Structure and Gender Roles Theme Icon
The Power of Tradition Theme Icon
Dystopian Society and Conformity Theme Icon
In preparation for the lottery, Mr. Summers creates lists of the heads of families, heads of households in each family, and members... (full context)
Family Structure and Gender Roles Theme Icon
The Power of Tradition Theme Icon
Just as Mr. Summers stops chanting in order to start the lottery, Mrs. Tessie Hutchinson arrives in the square.... (full context)
The Juxtaposition of Peace and Violence Theme Icon
Family Structure and Gender Roles Theme Icon
Dystopian Society and Conformity Theme Icon
...she joins them at the front, and some point out her arrival to her husband. Mr. Summers cheerfully says that he’d thought they’d have to start without Tessie. Tessie jokes back that... (full context)
Family Structure and Gender Roles Theme Icon
The Power of Tradition Theme Icon
Dystopian Society and Conformity Theme Icon
Mr. Summers says that they had better get started and get this over with so that everyone... (full context)
Family Structure and Gender Roles Theme Icon
The Power of Tradition Theme Icon
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Mr. Summers asks if the Watson boy is drawing this year. Jack Watson raises his hand and... (full context)
The Juxtaposition of Peace and Violence Theme Icon
Dystopian Society and Conformity Theme Icon
A hush falls over the crowd as Mr. Summers states that he’ll read the names aloud and the heads of families should come forward... (full context)
The Power of Tradition Theme Icon
Dystopian Society and Conformity Theme Icon
...Adams that there has always been a lottery, and that it’s bad enough to see Mr. Summers leading the proceedings while joking with everybody. Mrs. Adams intercedes with the information that some... (full context)
The Juxtaposition of Peace and Violence Theme Icon
The Power of Tradition Theme Icon
Dystopian Society and Conformity Theme Icon
Finally, the last man has drawn. Mr. Summers says, “all right, fellows,” and, after a moment of stillness, all the papers are opened.... (full context)
Human Nature Theme Icon
The Power of Tradition Theme Icon
Dystopian Society and Conformity Theme Icon
...“all of us took the same chance.” Bill Hutchinson tells his wife to “shut up.” Mr. Summers says they’ve got to hurry to get done in time, and he asks Bill if... (full context)
Human Nature Theme Icon
Dystopian Society and Conformity Theme Icon
Bill Hutchinson regretfully agrees with Mr. Summers , and says that his only other family is “the kids.” Mr. Summers formally asks... (full context)
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The Power of Tradition Theme Icon
Dystopian Society and Conformity Theme Icon
Mr. Summers asks if Bill Hutchinson is ready, and, with a glance at his family, Bill nods.... (full context)
Human Nature Theme Icon
The Power of Tradition Theme Icon
Dystopian Society and Conformity Theme Icon
Mr. Summers instructs the Hutchinsons to open the papers. Mr. Graves opens little Davy’s and holds it... (full context)
The Juxtaposition of Peace and Violence Theme Icon
Human Nature Theme Icon
The Power of Tradition Theme Icon
Dystopian Society and Conformity Theme Icon
Mr. Summers tells the crowd, “let’s finish quickly.” The villagers have forgotten several aspects of the lottery’s... (full context)