Summary of Shirley Jackson’s The Lottery

The Lottery is a short story written by Shirley Jackson.

Short Summary

The people of a small village gather in the town square for the annual lottery. They merrily discuss trivial events while waiting for the ceremony to begin. To begin the lottery, the men of each family draws a piece of paper from an old black box. One paper is marked by a black dot. The Hutchinson family draws the dot and must return their papers to the empty box. They draw again to find one winner. Mrs. Hutchinson draws the paper with the black dot, complaining how unfair the lottery was. All the townspeople, holding rocks, then close in on Mrs. Hutchinson and stone her.


The people of the village began to gather in the square. In some towns, the lottery took two days, but in this village, there were only about three hundred people and the whole lottery took less than two hours.

The children assembled first and made a great pile of stones in one corner of the square. The girls stood aside, talking among themselves. Then the men began to gather. The women came shortly afterward and joined their husbands. Soon they began to call to their children, who came reluctantly.

The lottery was conducted by Mr. Summers, who arrived carrying the black wooden box. The postmaster, Mr. Graves, followed him, carrying a stool. The original paraphernalia for the lottery had been lost long ago, and the black box now resting on the stool grew shabbier each year.

Mr. Summers spoke of making a new box, but no one liked to upset the tradition represented by the black box. Mr. Summers was although able to substitute the slips of paper for the chips of wood that had been used for generations.

Mr. Martin and his oldest son, Baxter, held the black box securely on the stool until Mr. Summers stirred up the papers inside it. There was a great deal of work to be done before Mr. Summers declared the lottery open. Mr. Summers was very good at all this.

Just as Mr. Summers turned to the assembled villagers, Mrs. Hutchinson came and stood in the back of the crowd. She had forgotten what day it was but came running when she saw the kids gone. She reached her husband and children who were standing in the front.

Mr. Summers asks if anyone is absent, and people replied Dunbar. Clyde Dunbar was to draw, but he had broken his leg. So, his wife offered to draw in place of him. Mr. Summers asked if she had a grown boy to do it for her, but her son was only sixteen.

Mr. Summers made a note on the list and asked if Watson boy would be drawing this year. Watson boys said he will be drawing for his mother and himself. Mr. Summers then asks to make sure that Old Man Warner is there too.

Mr. Summers explains the rules of the lottery. He will read names, and the head of the family will come up and draw a slip of paper, which will be kept folded until everyone has had their turn. The people had done this many times and they only half-listened to the directions.

Mr. Summers called for Adams, and he reached into the black box and took out a folded paper. He held it tight in hand and went back to his place in the crowd. Mr. Summers then called for other people.

Mrs. Delacroix says to Mrs. Graves that there seem to be no times between lotteries anymore. Only last week they had had a lottery.

Now, all through the crowd, men were holding the small folded papers in their hands turning them over and over nervously. Mrs. Dunbar and her two sons stood together, Mrs. Dunbar holding the slip of paper.

Mr. Adams said to Old Man Warner that over in the north village they’re talking of giving up the lottery, and some places have already quit them. Old Man Warner says there is ‘Nothing but trouble in that.’

Mr. Summers called his name. Then he called for Old Man Warner, who went through the crowd “Seventy-seventh time”.

Once all people had taken their slip, Mr. Summers asked them to open it. Then all people started to speak at once, asking who it was, and some people started saying it was Bill Hutchinson.

Everybody started looking at the Hutchinsons. Bill Hutchinson was quietly staring at the paper in his hand. Tessie Hutchinson shouted at Mr. Summers that it was not fair as he didn’t give Bill enough time to take any paper.

Mrs. Delacroix and Mrs. Graves ask Tessie Hutchinson to be a good sport and that all of them took the same chance, but she tells them to shut up.

Mr. Summers asks Bill if he has got any other households in the Hutchinsons. Mrs. Hutchison yells to add Don and Eva, but Mr. Summers says that daughters draw with their husbands’ families. Bill says that he has got no other family except the three kids.

Mr. Graves then puts the five slips in the box. Mr. Summers then asks all five to take out the slips and keep them folded. He then tells them to open the papers. Tessie Hutchinson’s slip of paper had a black spot on it. Mr. Summers instructs to finish quickly.

Villagers might have forgotten the rituals, but they still remembered the use of stones. Tessie Hutchinson, who is in the center of a cleared space, held her hands out and says it was not fair, as she is hit in the head with a stone. The crowd closes in on her.

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