Tessie Hutchinson is described as talkative, frantic, nervous, angry, blunt, anxious, selfish, and manipulative in “The Lottery” by Shirley Jackson. She protests the unfairness of the lottery system but ultimately accepts her fate when she is selected.
In Depth Analysis
Tessie Hutchinson is portrayed as very talkative throughout the story. When she arrives late to the lottery, the first thing the townspeople notice is her voice: “Clean forgot what day it was,” she said to Mrs. Delacroix, who stood next to her, and they both laughed softly. “Thought my old man was out back stacking wood,” she went on. “and then I looked out the window and the kids was gone, and then I remembered it was the twenty-seventh and came a-running” (Jackson). Even when she is late, Tessie speaks without being prompted and offers an elaborate explanation for why she was late. Later, once it is revealed that Bill Hutchinson has selected the paper with the black spot, Tessie immediately begins protesting loudly that the drawing was unfair. She talks more than any other character in the story. Her constant speech contrasts with the quiet, orderly way the rest of the townspeople carry out the lottery.
Tessie becomes frantic and anxious when it appears that her family has been selected in the lottery. After Bill Hutchinson chooses the paper with the black spot, Tessie protests loudly, saying “You didn’t give him time enough to take any paper he wanted. I saw you. It wasn’t fair!” (Jackson). As each of the Hutchinson family members selects a blank paper, Tessie appears increasingly “agitated” and “nervous” (Jackson). Her protests become more frantic as it becomes clear that she is destined to be the one chosen for the lottery sacrifice. Her frenetic energy contrasts starkly with the resigned calm of the townspeople and even her own husband.
In addition to being frantic, Tessie displays signs of nervousness throughout the lottery scene. Before the Hutchinson family is even selected, Tessie is described as looking “around nervously” as she exchanges small talk with the other villagers (Jackson). When Bill Hutchinson goes up to select his paper, Tessie is standing apart from the crowd and “held her breath while Mr. Hutchinson reached into the box and mixed up the papers” (Jackson). Her body language conveys anxiety and apprehension about what is to come. Once her family is selected and she remains the only one in danger, she becomes so nervous that she can barely hold the paper still to look at it. Her nervousness contrasts with the relaxed attitude of the other villagers and underscores the cruelty of what they are doing.
As her agitation grows, Tessie transitions from nervousness to anger. After Bill draws the marked paper, Tessie immediately becomes angry and accuses him of not having enough time to select. Her friends have to make her hold her tongue. As each family member gets a blank paper, Jackson writes that Tessie was “screaming” and calling the process unfair (Jackson). When it is just down to her and she reveals the paper with the black spot, Tessie’s “face contorted” in rage as she calls out “It wasn’t fair!” (Jackson) Tessie directs all her anger and aggression at the unjustness of the situation. Her fury contrasts starkly with the calmness of everyone else.
In addition to being talkative, Tessie demonstrates her bluntness in the way she interacts with others. When she arrives late, she bluntly says she “clean forgot what day it was” without apologizing or seeming embarrassed (Jackson). Once her family is selected, she bluntly accuses Bill Hutchinson of not having enough time to choose his paper. When Mrs. Delacroix tries to soothe her, Tessie retorts bluntly that “I tell you it wasn’t fair.” (Jackson) She bluntly vocalizes all her criticisms despite social pressure to keep quiet. Her blunt speech contrasts with the polite, passive way the other villagers chat before the lottery begins.
Throughout the story, Tessie displays signs of anxiety in her words and actions. She looks around nervously even before the lottery starts, suggesting she feels anxiety about the event itself. When Bill goes up for his paper, she anxiously holds her breath. She protests anxiously several times that things are moving too quickly. Her constant anxious outbursts contrast with the business-as-usual attitude of everyone else. Tessie seems to be the only one feeling real anxiety about the lottery’s outcome.
Tessie’s frantic protests expose her selfish motivations. She only begins complaining that the drawing is unfair when it appears her own family has been selected. She never speaks up earlier when other families are selected or when other townspeople draw their individual papers. Everything she says centers on her own self-interest in not being chosen. Even when she says the selection isn’t fair, she seems to mean it is unfair she specifically was chosen rather than unfair in general. Her selfishness is ironic given the lottery’s stated purpose of serving the public good.
In arguing that the drawing was unfair, Tessie tries emotional manipulation to save herself. She focuses on the improper way her husband Bill selected his paper, complaining “You didn’t give him time enough to take any paper he wanted.” (Jackson) By criticizing how quickly Bill chose, she implies that he was rushed into choosing the marked paper. She seems to be making him feel guilty in order to possibly prompt a re-draw. When that fails, she then emphasizes how little time they had to select papers in general, imploring “It wasn’t fair!” (Jackson) Her attempts at emotional manipulation reveal both her selfish motivations and her desperation.
Talkative and Outspoken
Tessie Hutchinson’s talkative, outspoken nature is her most prominent trait in “The Lottery.” From her chatty entrance to her loud protests, she speaks openly throughout the story. Her constant speech contrasts sharply with the quiet compliance of the other townspeople.
Emotional and Reactive
As the doomed lottery winner, Tessie experiences a rollercoaster of emotions not seen in any other character. She demonstrates nervousness, anxiety, frustration, anger, and desperation leading up to her climactic selection. Her emotional, reactive nature underscores the horror of the lottery ritual.
Self-Interested yet Doomed
While Tessie vocally protests the unfairness of her selection, her words ultimately serve her own self-interest rather than a sense of the greater good. Despite her efforts, she cannot escape her doomed fate. This reveals the cruelty and senselessness of the lottery practice.
|Chatty, Vocal, Outspoken, Blunt
|Chats readily with others, loudly protests unfairness
|Agitated, Nervous, Apprehensive, Desperate
|Becomes increasing disturbed as her family is selected
|Enraged, Furious, Heated, Critical
|Shouts about the unfairness of the lottery process
|Uneasy, Distressed, Troubled, Restless
|Holds breath anxiously, complains about things moving too fast
|Self-centered, Self-serving, Self-interested, Egotistic
|Only protests once her own family is chosen
|Controlling, Deceptive, Misleading, Scheming
|Tries to guilt others to control outcome
Key Scenes Demonstrating Traits
|“Clean forgot what day it was,” she said to Mrs. Delacroix… “Thought my old man was out back stacking wood,” she went on.
|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 Hutchinson stood alone, glancing around nervously and calling to her husband and children.
|Her face contorted with anger as she shouted, “It wasn’t fair!”
|Tessie Hutchinson was looking around nervously and blinking her eyes.
|Tessie began to protest. “It wasn’t fair. You didn’t give him time enough to choose.”
|“I tell you it wasn’t fair,” she said. “You didn’t give him time enough to choose.”
Comparison to Other Characters
Vs. Bill Hutchinson
While Tessie reacts strongly to being selected in the lottery, her husband Bill Hutchinson quietly accepts his fate. Tessie vocalizes her self-interest through desperate protests, whereas Bill is submissive and resigned.
Vs. Other Townspeople
Tessie reacts in a far more emotional, individualistic way than the other townspeople who calmly carry out the lottery collectively. She resists while they conform.
How Traits Reveal Story Themes
Tessie Hutchinson’s talkativeness, anxiety, anger, and desperation leading up to her selection help underscore key themes in “The Lottery” like:
Mob Mentality vs. Individual
Tessie reacts as an individual whereas the crowd functions as a cohesive mob.
Helplessness Against Tradition
Despite her loud protests, in the end Tessie cannot overturn the lottery tradition.
Tessie’s passionate objections highlight the inherent unfairness of randomly choosing a sacrificial victim.
Conformity vs. Resistance
Tessie resists while the rest of the village conforms blindly to the tradition.
So Tessie’s defiant words and emotional reactions serve to develop the major themes more than if she had passively accepted her fate.