Shirley Jackson's "The Lottery" is a story full of symbolism. It takes place on a beautiful summer day in a small town. Though the location of the town, or village, is never given, it appears to be no different than most rural communities. The story begins very light-hearted but has a surprising ending. The people of the town are gathering to determine whose life will be sacrificed by randomly selecting pieces of paper from a black box. Jackson said the purpose of the story was "to shock the story's readers with a graphic demonstration of the pointless violence and general inhumanity in their own lives" (254). She accomplishes this by creating an image of an average town, with average people, combining foreshadowing and symbolism, and finally shocking us with the people's actions. .
Jackson states that in larger towns the lottery can take two days, but in this small town of 300 people, it takes only a couple of hours, so people can stone the unfortunate lottery winner to death and still be home in time for lunch. The children are even involved, gathering stones for the beating. This symbolizes how de-sensitized a society becomes after being exposed to senseless violence for such a long time. Also, the pile of stones the children create represents a grave marker. The women arrive "shortly after their menfolk," dressed in "faded house dresses and sweaters" (255). This is one of the many examples in the story that symbolize men's leading roles in society. .
Mr. Summers leads the lottery, as well as the square dances, teenage club, and Halloween club. The name "Summers" suggests that he is a carefree, leisurely man and to support this, he is described as a "round-faced, jovial man" with "time and energy to devote to civic activities" (255). Summer is also the time of year that the lottery is held every year, of which Mr. Summers is the official. Mr. Graves stands behind Mr. Summers and the name Graves symbolizes the dark undertone of the story.