The Lottery

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The Juxtaposition of Peace and Violence Theme Analysis

Themes and Colors
The Juxtaposition of Peace and Violence Theme Icon
Human Nature Theme Icon
Family Structure and Gender Roles Theme Icon
The Power of Tradition Theme Icon
Dystopian Society and Conformity Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in The Lottery, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.
The Juxtaposition of Peace and Violence Theme Icon

“The Lottery” begins with a description of a particular day, the 27th of June, which is marked by beautiful details and a warm tone that strongly contrast with the violent and dark ending of the story. The narrator describes flowers blossoming and children playing, but the details also include foreshadowing of the story’s resolution, as the children are collecting stones and three boys guard their pile against the “raids of the other boys.” These details introduce the language of warfare and violence into the otherwise idyllic scene. This technique models a theme that will be used throughout the story: the juxtaposition of peace and violence, contrasting ordinary life with the unusual and cruel tradition of the lottery.

In the first part of the story, Jackson shows that the villagers seem to be reasonable, regular people concerned with the everyday necessities of life: the weather, farming, and taxes. These characteristics then contrast sharply with the violence these same ordinary men and women are capable of at the end of the story. This juxtaposition shows the complexity of human nature, which can be both kind and cruel—and perhaps Jackson is also implying that “ordinary” behavior and murderous behavior are not inherently in contrast. Almost anything can be normalized by society, provided that no one speaks out against it. The events of “The Lottery” were partly inspired by the Holocaust, which was a real-life example of this juxtaposition—there are accounts of Nazi officers weeping over a symphony and then committing mass murder without a second thought. In “The Lottery,” the characters are able to excuse and normalize their violence by restricting it to the context of the lottery, and by explaining the lottery as an ordinary, necessary tradition. Through the chilling juxtaposition of peace and violence, Jackson reminds us that evil is not necessarily an outside force—it is a part of human nature, and the potential for violence lurks beneath even the most normal, seemingly harmless behavior.

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The Juxtaposition of Peace and Violence ThemeTracker

The ThemeTracker below shows where, and to what degree, the theme of The Juxtaposition of Peace and Violence appears in each chapter of The Lottery. Click or tap on any chapter to read its Summary & Analysis.
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The Juxtaposition of Peace and Violence Quotes in The Lottery

Below you will find the important quotes in The Lottery related to the theme of The Juxtaposition of Peace and Violence.
The Lottery Quotes

The morning of June 27th was clear and sunny, with the fresh warmth of a full-summer day; the flowers were blossoming profusely and the grass was richly green.

Page Number: 291
Explanation and Analysis:

The story opens with a luscious description of the setting, which is a summer day in a small and rural village. The details from the quote collectively establish the tone and mood of the story. Word choices like “clear,” “sunny,” “fresh,” and “warmth” all have positive connotations, meaning they are associated with good memories and happiness. Not only does this language establish a positive setting, but it also includes words that capture the excessive beauty of the scene. The flowers are blooming “profusely” and the grass is “richly” green. This language seems like overstatement, as if this idyllic setting is too good to be true.

This quote takes on greater meaning within the larger context of the story. The violence that unfolds in this setting seems starkly different than the peace and beauty of the opening paragraph. These first lines may be giving the reader a false sense of security, so that the ending of the story is all the more shocking. Throughout The Lottery,the mundane or familiar aspects of human life are placed in contrast with extreme violence. This lovely beginning may be partially for dramatic effect and partially to show that appearances can be deceiving. Even in such an idyllic setting with "regular" people, violence can and does occur.


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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.

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.

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.

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.