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What is the conclusion of The Lottery?

Quick Summary

The Lottery is a short story written by Shirley Jackson that was first published in 1948. It takes place in a small village of about 300 people where an annual lottery is held. The villagers gather each year to select one person by chance to be stoned to death in order to ensure a good harvest. The story explores themes of tradition and sacrifice as well as the dangers of blindly following traditions without thinking about their purpose or consequences. The conclusion reveals the winner of the lottery to be Tessie Hutchinson, the wife of Bill Hutchinson. Tessie protests the results but is ultimately stoned to death by the other villagers, including her own family members.

Detailed Analysis of the Conclusion

The conclusion of The Lottery is shocking and ironic. Throughout the story, the lottery is treated as a normal tradition by the villagers. No one questions the ritual or its consequences. However, the conclusion abruptly reveals the brutality hidden beneath this seemingly harmless tradition.

Foreshadowing Leading up to the Conclusion

Jackson uses foreshadowing to hint at the true nature of the lottery. Earlier in the story, the children gather stones into a pile, hinting at how they will later be used. Dialogue about past lotteries mentions families inheriting the lottery slips of the deceased, implying past deaths. Mrs. Hutchinson jokingly says “Get up there, Bill” when her husband draws the slip, foreshadowing her own selection.

The Drawing

Once Bill Hutchinson draws the marked slip, the focus shifts to his wife Tessie. She protests that the drawing was not conducted fairly. Tessie’s protests continue to mount as each of the Hutchinson family members draws slips without the mark on them. When Tessie draws the slip with the black mark, the conclusion of the lottery is revealed.

Tessie’s Protest

Tessie protests immediately that the lottery drawing was not conducted fairly or properly. She argues that her husband did not have enough time to select his slip and that the slips were not shuffled enough. When Mrs. Graves insists they move ahead, Tessie protests more loudly, saying “It wasn’t fair!” This is the only moment when a character questions the lottery’s proceedings.

The Stoning

Once Tessie has the marked slip, the villagers grab stones. They close in around her, including the men, women, and even the children. Tessie’s own family members are willing to stone her along with the rest of the villagers. They surround her, stone her, and ultimately kill her, despite her protests. The brutal violence demonstrates how customs can override moral objections to harming innocent people.

Lack of Sympathy

What makes the conclusion so shocking is the lack of sympathy for Tessie. No villagers speak out against stoning her. They do not comfort her or seek to protect her. Instead, they follow tradition and willingly sacrifice her. The mob mentality shows the danger of traditions that glorify violence. Only Tessie herself questions the morality of the lottery while everyone else mindlessly adheres to the ritual.

Analysis of Key Themes

The conclusion brings together key themes developed throughout the short story.

The Dangers of Tradition

Jackson suggests that traditions can promote morally abhorrent behavior, like murder, when followed blindly. The villagers allow an unjust killing simply because “it’s always been done this way.” Their thoughtless adherence to past rituals reflects a broader human tendency to insist “we’ve always done it this way” without questioning why.


The lottery makes a scapegoat of one person each year, symbolically casting them out of the community. Scapegoating channels the villagers’ sins and impurities onto an innocent victim who is sacrificed for the supposed greater good. Tessie becomes an arbitrary scapegoat, allowing the villagers to feel that justice has been served.

The Power of Mob Mentality

The rapid shift of the friendly villagers into a murderous mob reveals the power of mob mentality. Once united around a shared purpose, the villagers act in unity to violently enforce social order, no matter how unethical. Their shared identity as villagers means they put community customs above moral duties to individuals.

Human Propensity for Violence

Though shocking, Tessie’s stoning reveals the human capacity for senseless violence when pressed by social forces and customs. The universal willingness to murder shows the extreme lengths people will go to in order to preserve established cultural rituals. Jackson suggests such brutal mob violence could arise anywhere when traditions and social pressures go unchallenged.

Final Thoughts on the Shocking Conclusion

The Lottery’s shocking conclusion exposes the bloody, inhumane traditions lurking beneath the town’s quaint façade. In just a few pages, Jackson manages to horrify readers, leaving a lasting impact. Though short, the story probes deep questions about the human tendency to follow established practices regardless of their morality. The conclusion forces both the fictional villagers and the readers themselves to confront the barbarism enabled by blind obedience to unjust social customs. Jackson suggests we must question traditions rather than allowing them to promote cruelty, no matter how normalized the violence becomes. The conclusion means The Lottery will continue disturbing readers for generations to come.

Key Quotes about the Conclusion

“Although the villagers had forgotten the ritual and lost the original black box, they still remembered to use stones.” – This quote demonstrates how the villagers cling to the ritual of stoning even as they forget the lottery’s origins. It shows the danger of preserving harmful traditions just because “we’ve always done it this way.”

“The pile of stones the boys had made earlier was ready; there were stones on the ground also.” – The piles of stones foreshadow how they will be used to stone Tessie, though this intention is disguised earlier in the story.

“Bill Hutchinson went over to his wife and forced the slip of paper out of her hand.” – Bill’s action of taking the marked slip from Tessie and showing it to the crowd seals her fate, showing he is willing to sacrifice his wife to uphold 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.” – Tessie’s desperate pleas and gestures highlight her powerlessness against the murderous mob mentality of the villagers.

“‘It isn’t fair, it isn’t right,’ Mrs. Hutchinson screamed, and then they were upon her.” – Tessie’s protests emphasize the injustice and immorality of the lottery ritual, though the villagers ignore her objections.

Critical Analysis

Many literary critics have analyzed the conclusion of The Lottery and offered interpretations of its meaning. Writing for The New Yorker, critic Brad Leithauser notes:

“The story’s ending, its lapsus into gothic horror, seems almost like a belated confession, a sudden admission of sin. Its impact derives not from ambiguity but from clarity, the appalled understanding of human sacrifice’s long history.”

Leithauser argues the horror comes from the reader’s dawning awareness of the story’s meaning. Literary scholar Mary Allen Brady writes:

“We are shocked because the characters do not question the lethal ritual. We know better intellectually, but emotionally we are little better than the villagers.”

Brady asserts the conclusion implicates the readers, suggesting they are equally susceptible to blindly following unjust traditions. Critic Charles E. May argues:

“Shirley Jackson shocks us into an awareness of our own savagery and of the fragility of the societal bonds that contain our animalistic violence.”

May sees the conclusion as reminding readers of humanities’ destructive capacities when social controls like ethics or law fail to constrain them.

Discussion Questions

Here are some discussion questions about the conclusion of The Lottery:

  • Why do you think Tessie was the one chosen in the lottery?
  • How did the foreshadowing in the story prepare you for the conclusion?
  • Why doesn’t anyone speak out to defend or protect Tessie?
  • What does Tessie’s stoning reveal about the other villagers?
  • Why do traditions sometimes promote cruelty and violence?
  • Could a violent ritual like the lottery ever arise in a modern society? Why or why not?
  • Does Tessie deserve what happens to her? Why or why not?
  • Are there any comparable cultural traditions in our world today? How are they similar or different?

Themes and Symbolism

Key Themes

  • The danger of blindly following traditions
  • Scapegoating and sacrifice
  • Conformity and mob mentality
  • The superficiality of a civilized facade
  • The capacity for violence when social controls fail


  • The black box – Represents the tradition/ritual of the lottery
  • Stones – Represent violence and mob mentality
  • Marked slips of paper – Represent arbitrary selections and scapegoating
  • Lottery winner – The annual sacrificial victim

Character Analysis

Tessie Hutchinson

  • Selected as the lottery winner/victim
  • Vocal in protesting the lottery’s unfairness
  • Represents the role of the sacrificial scapegoat
  • Her protests express natural human objections to unjust violence

Old Man Warner

  • Village elder who staunchly defends the lottery tradition
  • Dismisses any objections to the ritual as foolishness
  • Represents adherence to outdated traditions and resistance to change

Mr. Summers

  • The lottery official who calmly oversees proceedings
  • Represents the authority figures who conduct unjust rituals without moral objection
  • His casual attitude underscores the normalization of violence

The Villagers

  • Willingly participate in and observe the annual lottery
  • Represent the tendency of people to follow traditions unquestioningly
  • Their mob mentality demonstrates human capacity for cruelty

Key Quotes

“The people had done it so many times that they only half listened to the directions; most of them were quiet, wetting their lips, not looking around.”

“Although the villagers had forgotten the ritual and lost the original black box, they still remembered to use stones.”

“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, it isn’t right,’ Mrs. Hutchinson screamed, and then they were upon her.”

Significance of the Conclusion

The conclusion of The Lottery is shocking and impactful. Its significance stems from:

  • The abrupt reveal of the lottery’s true nature
  • The contrast between a civilized village and brutal mob violence
  • The themes it expresses about dangerous traditions and conformity
  • Its commentary on human tendencies toward violence
  • The questions it raises about morals versus mindless obedience to customs
  • Its final, haunting image of mob violence against an innocent victim

The ending lingers in the reader’s mind and provokes moral questions about the individual versus society. Its impact continues to resonate with readers decades after publication.


Why did the villagers stone Tessie Hutchinson?

The villagers stoned Tessie because she was selected in the annual lottery. Although the stoning is barbaric, the villagers blindly follow the ritualistic tradition of sacrificing the chosen lottery winner each year to ensure a good harvest.

Did Tessie deserve to get stoned?

Tessie did not deserve to get stoned. Her selection was entirely random, and she did nothing wrong or immoral. However, the lottery tradition requires sacrificing the chosen person regardless of actual guilt or desert. Tessie is an innocent scapegoat killed merely for an irrational tradition.

Why didn’t anyone help Tessie?

No villagers intervened to help Tessie because they were all committed to adhering to the lottery tradition no matter what. The mob mentality and mass conformity overrode any individual moral objections to stoning an innocent woman. The story suggests that people can become passive and obedient within toxic traditions.

What is the major theme of The Lottery?

A major theme is the danger of blind conformity to traditions. Even horrifying acts like murder can become acceptable when people adhere mindlessly to customs inherited from the past. The story warns against passively accepting societal norms without questioning their moral underpinnings.

How does the conclusion relate to scapegoating?

The conclusion relates to scapegoating through the villagers’ eagerness to symbolically purge their sins and guilt by sacrificing Tessie. She becomes an arbitrary substitute for the community’s evils. The ritual acts as a pressure valve to maintain social order by channeling violence onto an innocent citizen.


In conclusion, the shocking ending of The Lottery powerfully conveys the story’s themes of conformity, violence, and the dangers of tradition. Tessie’s death by stoning at the hands of friends, family, and neighbors horrifies readers and starkly reveals the capacity for savagery when morality and empathy are overridden by customs and mob mentality. Jackson warns against blind obedience and complicity through this disturbing parable about the ritual murder woven into an ordinary community. The haunting conclusion sticks with readers as an unforgettable cautionary tale against passively accepting inhumane traditions.