The Lottery

by: Shirley Jackson

Mr. Summers

He was a round-faced, jovial man and he ran the coal business, and people were sorry for him, because he had no children and his wife was a scold.

The narrator introduces Mr. Summers as the man who leads all village functions, including the lottery. Describing him as “jovial” here despite his gruesome job on the lottery day hints at how little the lottery fazes the community. The fact that people felt pity for him due to his lack of children shows the superficial importance placed on family in the story.

Because so much of the ritual had been forgotten or discarded, Mr. Summers had been successful in having slips of paper substituted for the chips of wood that had been used for generations.

Although Mr. Summers did not come up with the idea of the lottery, this detail reveals the depth of his involvement in the whole process. He seeks to innovate the lottery’s process, substituting slips of paper for wood chips, and he even wants to make a new box. Mr. Summers not only leads the lottery, but his actions reveal that he clearly wants the process to continue.

Mr. Summers was very good at all this; in his clean white shirt and blue jeans, with one hand resting carelessly on the black box, he seemed very proper and important as he talked interminably to Mr. Graves and the Martins.

After describing the responsibilities of the person leading the lottery, the narrator’s description of Mr. Summers indicates how he embraces the job with casual authority and self-importance. His “proper” appearance lends credibility to the barbarous practice, and the villagers trust him and never seem to question the lottery. Readers infer that if Mr. Summers appeared more disheveled or behaved in a cruel way, the villagers might feel inclined to challenge or disrespect the lottery.

Mr. Summers consulted his list. “Clyde Dunbar,” he said. “That’s right. He’s broke his leg, hasn’t he? Who’s drawing for him?”

Before beginning the lottery, Mr. Summers takes attendance, and the villagers point out Dunbar’s absence. Mr. Summers recalls the reason for his absence, revealing how well he knows each individual villager. The fact that even though Dunbar broke his leg, he still needs someone to draw for him and could potentially be the one chosen, further demonstrates the cruelty of the lottery and, indirectly, of Mr. Summers.

“All right, folks,” Mr. Summers said. “Let’s finish quickly.”

Mr. Summers says this to the crowd after Bill Hutchinson shows them Tessie’s paper with the black mark. Despite his mild manners throughout the story, Mr. Summers indicates that he views the communal destruction of one of their own as an ordinary task to be completed as quickly as possible. While Mr. Summers participates as part of a crowd, he alone instructs the others through the process.