Plot and Theme Analysis of “The Lottery” and “The Rocking-Horse Winner”

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Writers must use literary elements, especially plots and themes, to establish an influence and in-depth interpretation of a story's message. The use of a theme is critical in connecting the facts presented in a plot to the real world. A storyline, on the other hand, refers to the linear events that occur in a single narrative and describe main problems and resolutions. Proper use of these elements provides readers with a clear view of the events taking place in a novel as well as the author's message. With both authors acknowledging the strength of feminism in the patriarchal society, Shirley Jackson Shirley’s The Lottery and D.H. Laurence’s The Rocking Horse Winner can be viewed in a wider perspective through the analysis of plots and themes. The climax of the stories are evident with various situations contributing to the key literary elements.

A common similarity of the two stories is the plot; Shirley and Laurence have development conflicts which aid in the realization of significant themes. The form of conflict witnessed is that of character versus the society. In The Lottery, Tessie challenges the community for demanding a repeat of the lottery. “You didn't give him time enough to take any paper he wanted. I saw you. It wasn't fair!" Tessie complains against the process; she feels that the husband won unfairly; this makes her go against the society. Similarly, in The Rocking Horse Winner, Paul has a conflict with the society; regardless of the fact that he is a child, he believes that a family must own a car or “at least a taxi” to be fulfilled. His obsession with wanting a good life and making his mother happy can be witnessed when he gets addicted to gambling and riding of horses in order to win on race bets. He tells his horse, “Now take me to where there is luck! Now take me!" Due to his obsession, Paul tells the horse to take him to the place of luck in order to win more money. His actions and ambitions reveal the need to overturn the society’s expectation on children.

A contrasting theme in the stories is isolation and seclusion. In The Lottery, women have been secluded from the political world. Shirley Jackson illustrates how the society has distinct roles for men and women through the lottery process. It is evident that men dominate the society; they are the ones to cast the lottery papers, and in case they are not present, their male children are to take up the role even in the presence of the wives. When Watson’s son raises from the crowd and declared his interest to participate, the crowd commends him. He says, "I'm drawing for my mother and me." Even though his mother is present, she is not allowed to vote on behalf of her husband; instead, she lets the son participate for the family; this is an evidence of seclusion from the society.

Contrary to Watson’s situation, in The Rocking Horse Winner, the mother of the children, Hester, is seen to have possess same powers as males which is evident in her obsession for money. She does not love her husband fully simply because the husband is not “lucky” enough to provide them with luxurious needs. At one instant, she goes to work with an artist who designed clothes for women. The narrator states, “but Paul's mother only made several hundreds, and she was again dissatisfied. She so wanted to be first in something, and she did not succeed, even in making sketches for drapery advertisements.” Even with the little amount she makes, Hester does not get satisfied. She tries to change her position in the society; instead of being secluded, she aims at being equal to the men.

In summary, Jackson and Laurence have both utilized plot and themes to explore the meaning of the stories. The plot is a very important aspect of story analyses that offers in-depth knowledge on the themes and storyline of the stories. The contrasting theme identified is seclusion and isolation; in the Lottery, the society secludes women from the lottery process, making them inexistent. On the contrary, Hester tries her best to compete men in the society to make more income. These literary elements are, thus, significant in understanding the two short stories.


Jackson, Shirley. The lottery. Web 05 Feb. 2016.

Lawrence, David Herbert. The rocking-horse winner. Dramatic Publishing, 1966.

September 01, 2021

Sociology Literature


Communication Books

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