Part of what makes the story of “The Lottery” so unsettling and shocking is Jackson’s thorough use of irony throughout. By introducing details and ideas that play out completely differently than expected, she is able to lure readers into a sense of security before revealing the true subject matter of the story. Jackson primarily relies on situational irony, a form of irony in which an event occurs that is the opposite of what the reader might expect. The title itself is an example of irony as the lottery, which typically has a positive connotation, proves to be dark and violent. Without having any prior knowledge of the story, a reader may approach “The Lottery” with the expectation that it ends happily. The setting that Jackson chooses has a similarly jarring effect. Winter is the season which stereotypically symbolizes death, so the fact that this event culminating in a brutal murder takes place in the summer is deeply ironic. Again, this choice allows Jackson to create an inviting mood for readers which she then destroys by the end of the story.
The final ironic component of the narrative involves the contrast between characters’ seemingly pleasant attitudes and their outburst of violent behavior. The members of this small village appear to treat each other with kindness and respect until they turn on Tessie and kill her. Even as they move to stone Tessie to death, however, community members like Mrs. Delacroix and Mrs. Dunbar maintain their upbeat attitude. The story’s shockingly horrific ending, which defies all expectations, emphasizes just how powerful Jackson’s use of irony is throughout.