The short story, "The Lottery," by Shirley Jackson, is about small village that has a dark tradition. Men of each family must pick a slip of paper from a black box. These slips of paper will determine the fate of the lottery and also of a family. One message the author may be conveying to the reader is that blindly following traditions could be fatal. Throughout the story the author uses irony to shock the reader at the tale's conclusion. Jackson twists the concept of a "lottery" as well as the behaviour of the participants in the game of chance. Jackson also shows irony in the names of the characters, and where and when it takes place. Lastly, the words spoken by the characters throughout the story, proves, that Shirley Jackson was using irony. Jackson emphasizes the use of irony and this affects the way the message is sent.
Throughout the story, most acts of the characters are packed with irony. Although the title "The Lottery" is not an act of a character, it is certainly the most obvious one of them all. The definition of the word "lottery" is, "A drawing of lots in which prizes are distributed to the winners among persons buying a chance." ("Lottery") therefore the readers see this, and they immediately start to think of winning something such as; money, cars, something good or beneficial. Little do the readers know, the lottery in the story's case, is being stoned to death. This is clearly the opposite of what the reader expects, which is a prime example of irony. An extremely ironic action in the story is from the children of the village. Early in the story the children are described to be gathering small rock and pebbles. Readers come to believe that the kids are just being kids and they are playing around. By the the end of the story readers then figure out why the the kids were gathering small rocks, as the author states, "The pile of stones the boys had made earlier was ready" (Jackson 6).