The Lottery

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Stones Symbol Icon

The stones that the villagers use to kill the victim selected by the lottery are mentioned periodically throughout the story. This repetition develops the stones as a symbol of the violence that humans are seemingly always prepared to commit. Young children gather the stones into piles at the beginning of the short story, and at the end the villagers take up these stones to hurl them at Tessie Hutchinson. Even Tessie’s son, little Davy Hutchinson, is offered stones to throw. These weapons are primitive, and in the hands of children they demonstrate the human instinct for violence. This symbolism is reinforced by the statement at the end of the story—that even though the villagers had forgotten the rituals associated with the lottery, “they still remembered to use stones” for the killing. This shows Jackson’s view that violence is fundamental to human nature, something that cannot be forgotten.

Stones Quotes in The Lottery

The The Lottery quotes below all refer to the symbol of Stones. 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

Bobby Martin had already stuffed his pockets full of stones, and the other boys soon followed his example, selecting the smoothest and roundest stones; Bobby and Harry Jones and Dickie Delacroix—the villagers pronounced this name “Dellacroy”—eventually made a great pile of stones in one corner of the square and guarded it against the raids of the other boys.

Related Characters: Dickie Delacroix, Bobby Martin, Harry Jones
Related Symbols: Stones
Page Number: 291
Explanation and Analysis:

The exposition at the beginning of the story includes some details that are not fully explained, primarily the boys' project of collecting stones and piling them in the village square. At this point these activities seem harmless, like the familiar play of children, and the language of this passage contributes to the portrayal of this activity as innocent. Bobby, Harry, and Dickie guard their stones against the “raids” of the other children, and this detail shows that the children are collecting stones and stealing them from each other as a game. The inventive play of children, often featuring guarding and stealing, as in a game like “capture the flag,” is automatically associated with innocence, youth, and laughter. Although these boys aren’t described as laughing and happy, the reader assumes that they are enjoying their game.

The ending of the story and the usage of the stones fully explains the activity of the boys in this early passage—but from this innocent scene, the reader would not expect the outcome of the story. However, once the ending is known, this scene suddenly seems ominous: even the children’s games feature violence, including “raids,” chasing, and stealing from each other. Violence in this story is not restricted to some people or some ages—everyone is influenced by violence, which is shown to be an inevitable part of human nature.

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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 ready; there were stones on the ground with the blowing scraps of paper that had come out of the box…

Related Characters: Tessie Hutchinson
Related Symbols: Stones, The Black Box
Page Number: 301
Explanation and Analysis:

Once Tessie has been selected as the victim of the lottery, the truth of the tradition is revealed as the villagers pick up stones. This quote describing the villagers’ act of arming themselves with stones reminds the reader of several key ideas already established in the story. First, this passage points out the aspects of the lottery that have been lost, but they are set up as different than the use of stones, which has been consistent throughout the years that the lottery has been in existence. Therefore, the villagers don’t forget to use stones, which shows that violence (unlike other details of ritual) is unforgettable. Using a stone as a weapon is part of human psychology, a primitive means of attack or self-defense.

This quote also references the beginning of the story, where the young boys were collecting stones. This early passage is recast in a grim light as these stones, which the reader once assumed to be playthings, are transformed into murder weapons. Even the young children are involved in this violence, which further shows that violence is instinctual. Innocent activities, such as children playing or the everyday life in this village, do not exclude the possibility of violence, which can occur anywhere.

The children had stones already. And someone gave little Davy Hutchinson a few pebbles.

Related Characters: Tessie Hutchinson, Davy Hutchinson
Related Symbols: Stones
Page Number: 301
Explanation and Analysis:

The villagers pick up stones to use them as weapons, but the children have already armed themselves. Little Davy Hutchinson, Tessie's son, is too young to understand the proceedings, but someone older gives him some stones. This quote shows that even the children are enthusiastic about the proceedings of the lottery when they get swept up in the crowd—illustrating how violence is part of human nature, as this story repeatedly emphasizes. But, at the same time, this quote also shows that violence can be a learned behavior. Because Davy Hutchinson is given stones by someone older than himself, he is being taught to participate in violence.

Therefore, in this story, violence arises from both nature and nurture. In a village where conformity and tradition are highly valued, the next generation is taught to follow the actions of an older generation. This also shows how traditions are continued and maintained: they are learned from an older generation. Despite the discussion in this story of an end to the lottery in this village, it seems clear that the next generation is already learning to carry on this violent tradition.

Tessie Hutchinson was in the center of a cleared space by now, and she held her hands out desperately as the villagers moved in on her. “It isn’t fair,” she said. A stone hit her on the side of the head. Old Man Warner was saying, “Come on, come on, everyone.” Steve Adams was in the front of the crowd of villagers, with Mrs. Graves beside him.
“It isn’t fair, it isn’t right,” Mrs. Hutchinson screamed, and then they were upon her.

Related Characters: Tessie Hutchinson (speaker), Old Man Warner (speaker), Mrs. Graves, Steve Adams
Related Symbols: Stones
Page Number: 302
Explanation and Analysis:

The story ends with the stoning of Tessie Hutchinson. She stands alone in a cleared space as the villagers approach, armed with stones. This outcome of events unfolds in the last several few lines, making the "twist" particularly shocking, partly because of the effort early in the story to establish that this is an average, nice village. The cruelty of the villagers and their collective thinking is apparent in this final passage, especially in the last words “and then they were upon her”—language that evokes the brutality of a pack of dogs, not humans. Old Man Warner is egging the villagers on as they attack, encouraging them, showing that the villagers are working as a unit. Despite the mob mentality of the villagers, specific individuals are mentioned in the crowd. Steve Adams and Mrs. Graves  have already been established in the story as regular people, yet they appear eager for violence in this passage.

Tessie stands alone, her physical isolation showing that she has been isolated as a solitary voice standing up against the crowd. She tries to protest, shifting from “it isn’t fair” to “it isn’t right”—the last words the reader hears from her. She is the only voice of reason in a group that has gone insane. The fairness of the lottery has been emphasized to Tessie—as the other villagers reminded her that everyone took a fair chance at being chosen. However, it is clear Tessie's death is pointless and not right.

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Stones Symbol Timeline in The Lottery

The timeline below shows where the symbol Stones 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
Human Nature Theme Icon
Family Structure and Gender Roles Theme Icon
Dystopian Society and Conformity Theme Icon
...the village square first, enjoying their summer leisure time. Bobby Martin fills his pockets with stones, and other boys do the same. Bobby helps Harry Jones and Dickie Delacroix build a... (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
...villagers have forgotten several aspects of the lottery’s original ritual, but they remember to use stones for performing the final act. There are stones in the boys’ piles and some others... (full context)
Human Nature Theme Icon
The Power of Tradition Theme Icon
Dystopian Society and Conformity Theme Icon
The children pick up stones, and Davy Hutchinson is handed a few pebbles. Tessie Hutchinson holds out her arms desperately,... (full context)