Unexpected Deaths in the Lottery and Story of an Hour
The essay starts by highlighting the two works of literature that will be the main focus of this paper. Thereafter a brief summary of both the short stories is given. The summaries highlight key areas within the stories that will be used for the contrast and comparison portions. The comparison begins and states the similarities in the themes such as family, characters and the plots of the two stories. The contrast section also follows the same pattern noting the key differences in themes, characters and the story line as well. The conclusion talks about the way in which both the authors were successful in bringing out societal issues using simple and easy to understand story lines.
Unexpected Deaths in the Lottery and Story of an Hour
Literature is one of the most studied humanities across the globe. Since its inception, there have been several authors and works of literature that have highlighted various issues some of them being political, historical, and others being the personal day to day issues that everyone faces in life. Some of these works were good enough to make it to the literature hall of fame and have since then been studied by numerous upcoming writers and even by authors who have outlived their writing days and have now become critics. Two excellent examples of such literal works include The Lottery by Shirley Jackson and The Story of an Hour by Kate Chopin. Although the central theme in both of these short stories is death, both the authors go about bringing it out in different ways.
The Story of an Hour by Kate Chopin is centred on the character Louise Mallard, the wife of Brently Mallard. Louise is a young woman who has a heart disease which makes everyone tread lightly around her so as not to aggravate her condition (Chopin, 2001). When Richards who is Brently’s friend is at the newspaper office, he receives word of a railroad disaster, and he sees Brently’s name on the list of people who had died. When Josephine, Louise’s sister finds out the bad news, she tells Louise as calmly as she possibly can to avoid making her sick. When Louise receives the news, she sobs and goes to her room to be alone. As she is alone, she begins to feel happy that she is finally free of her husband. Although she often feels kindness and love both from and towards Brently, she is convinced that men and women always oppress each other in marriage even if done in love (Chopin, 2001). She begins to imagine her life from that day onwards when her sister begs her to come back downstairs before she makes herself sick again. When she arrives downstairs, Brently walks in the door and announces that he was not on the train and that he had no idea that there was even an accident. On seeing him, Louise gets a heart attack and dies, and the doctors declared that she died of happiness.
On the other hand, The Lottery by Shirley Jackson is centred on a small town with the population of 300 people and their lottery tradition in which they draw slips of paper to decide on who they are going to stone to death (Jackson, 2016). On this particular lottery day, everyone picks up stones and gathers in the town square waiting for the drawing process to begin. Mr Summers is given the duty of running the lottery as he has a lot of free time to spend on the town’s obligations. Mr Summers shakes the slips of paper while in a black box. At this point, Tessie Hutchinson arrives and stands at the front with her family in a hurry as she had forgotten that it was lottery day (Jackson, 2016). Mr Summers calls up all the families to draw a paper, and it is quickly revealed that Bill Hutchinson has got it. Tessie says that the lottery was not fair but each member of their family is called to draw up more papers and Tessie draws the paper with the black dot on it. She then begins to protest about the lottery being unfair but is struck by a rock on the head, and the whole crowd proceeds to stone her to death (Jackson, 2016).
On the one hand, the two stories share quite a few things regarding themes and characters. Firstly, both the main characters are females having a rough day. In The Story of an Hour, Louise finds out that her husband is dead and thinks that she is now free but later learns that he is alive which shocks her to death (Chopin, 2001). In The Lottery Tessie Hutchinson wakes up on the wrong side of the bed and has completely forgotten that it was the day of the lottery a day that was highly anticipated by the whole town. In addition, she draws the dotted paper and is stoned to death on that very day. Secondly, the two books share the theme of Family (Jackson, 2016). In The Story of an Hour, Louise is married to Brently and although they don’t have children they make up a small family. In addition, Louise has a sister; Josephine, with whom she is close (Chopin, 2001). However, the theme of family is more pronounced in The Lottery. When the townspeople gather in the square, they stand with their families and even draw papers per family. Also, they pay keen attention to those who are married off and leave one family to become a part of another family (Jackson, 2016). Concerning character, Louise and Tessie share the quality of being free spirits. The reason as to why Louise goes to her room is to be alone so that she can be excited about being free from her husband an action that would not be expected of her or any wife. In the same way, Tessie shows her free spirit by not only arriving late to the lottery but also by making light of her lateness with her husband as well as protesting that the lottery was unfair. Because of this she is seen by the community as a threat and may have been the reason as to why she was executed.
Another similarity between the two short stories is the use of symbolism. In The Lottery the black box in which the slips of paper are placed for the villagers to pick at random is old and shabby, but the villagers insist on still using it every year. This represents their loyalty to the tradition which is the lottery (Jackson, 2016). The lottery process itself symbolises any action that is passed down from generation to generation and is followed without question regardless of how wrong or bizarre it is. In the same way, Louise’s heart disease in The Story of an Hour represents her ambivalence towards her marriage to Brently and the way she feels about her lack of freedom (Chopin, 2001). The open window in Louise’s room is also used to symbolise the myriad of opportunities that await her now that she is free from her husband.
On the other hand, the two stories have a few differences. The first difference in themes is the disregard for human life shown in The Lottery. In this book, a simple black dot on a small piece of paper coupled with one’s luck determines the worth of the life of one of the town’s people. Also when one of the characters Old man Warner that people in some cities want to stop the lottery while others have already stopped it he ridicules they saying that young people are messing with the traditions and that they are lost (Jackson, 2016). This is different from The Story of an Hour in that the supposed death of Brently Mallard makes everyone sad and worried about Louise who is also sad as well relieved (Chopin, 2001). The second difference in the themes is the way in which tradition is portrayed. In The Lottery, tradition is held to high standards to the point that they are using old and shabby equipment to carry out the lottery process so as not to tamper with tradition (Jackson, 2016). However, in The Story of an Hour, Louise is happy to have her life back. A traditional woman would see herself as a widow who has been left alone for the rest of her life, but Louise sees herself as a woman who has been freed from the shackles of marriage.
In conclusion, the two short stories shed light on several issues that can be seen in society today. For example, the lottery sheds light on bizarre traditions such as female genital mutilation and racism that are still very prolific in different parts of the world. Alternatively, the story of an hour sheds light on the difficulties of married life. The two short stories can convey much meaning using simple illustrations that make it easy for the audiences to understand. Several critics have had nothing but positive things to say about the two books and the authors who have landed themselves in the literature hall of fame both with these works and with other books as well.
Chopin, K. (2001). The story of an hour. Logan, Iowa: Perfection Learning.
Jackson, S. (2016). The lottery. New York, NY: HarperPerennial Classics.