“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.
The Juxtaposition of Peace and Violence ThemeTracker
The Juxtaposition of Peace and Violence Quotes in The Lottery
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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…
The children had stones already. And someone gave little Davy Hutchinson a few pebbles.
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.