The Setting of Shirley Jackson's "The Lottery" and Graham Greene's "The Destructors"

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A short story is a brief fictional literary genre, usually shorter than a novel and that often deals with relatively fewer characters. Short stories entail conveying a single effect through a few scenes or episodes. Some of the most significant features that define this type of literary genre include the economy of the setting, the brevity of the narrative, the absence of a complex plot, as well as the lack of fully developed characters (Hones 473). The setting is a very important aspect of this type of literary genre that broadly makes up the background of the story. It usually sets the reader’s mood and is likely to determine the reader’s eagerness to continue following the events of the story (Hones 474). The Lottery and The Destructors are two examples of short stories that were written in two settings that show a few similarities and differences. The Lottery is one of the most famous short stories that was written by Shirley Jackson to describe a fictitious small town that annually celebrated a ritual known as the lottery and which ended with the death of one of the individuals in the town.  The Destructors, on the other hand, is a short story that was written by Graham Greene based on a boys gang set to destroy a beautiful house that had been in existence for over two hundred years old. This essay will compare and contrast these two short stories with a special focus on their settings.

            The first contrast between the settings of these two short stories is in their respective geographical locations. The events in The Lottery take place

in a small farming village that is located in a fairly distant and isolated region from other villages (Jackson 1). The village is described in brief snippets that portray it as a characteristic rural farming village that harbors communal activities that directly involve all members of the community. On the other hand, the events in The Destructors

take place in the only house left standing in the middle of a totally destroyed town in a neighborhood in England. The members of the gang meet every morning at a parking lot before heading to the house where the proceedings take place (Greene 1). The description of the location portrays it as having been a nice urban neighborhood at one time before it was heavily damaged and destroyed by The Blitz bombings.

            Another difference in the settings of these two short stories is in the time when they take place. The Lottery does not give the exact year when the events take place. The events, however, are described to have taken place in the month of June, clearly placing the context of the story between late spring and early summer. The people of the village gather early in the morning of 27th

June to participate in the lottery which would take approximately two hours (Jackson 1). The events in The Destructors, on the other hand, take place a few years after the end of the Second World War, which is approximately in the 1950s. Trevor joins the gang on the eve of the August bank holiday which, in London, comes at the end of August (Greene 1). This, therefore, places the context of the story at the end of summer.

            The mood created by the respective settings of these two short stories also brings out another significant contrast. The setting of The Lottery sets up the readers to think positively and expect positive outcomes. Shirley Jackson describes the morning of the proceedings as being clear, sunny, and freshly warmed with blossoming flowers and green grasses, stressing on the brilliance of nature and the beauty of the day (Jackson 1). The setting is pleasant for the readers and lets them relax and have a positive outlook. However, there is a clear distinction between the expectations created for the readers and the eventual outcome of the story in which the winner of the lottery is stoned (Jackson 7). In contrast to this, the setting of The Destructors creates a mood of pessimism and emptiness that highly dominates the story. The setting of the story is in a site of destruction and in a house that is poorly supported and highly isolated (Greene 1). The setting of this story is suitable and relevant because it corresponds to the emotional detachment and emptiness that is displayed by some of the characters in the story such as Trevor. The setting of this story makes the story believable and credible because it correlates with the psychological exploration of the influence of war on children (Hones 477). The setting of this story creates expectations that correspond with the occurrences within the story.

            There are a few similarities in the settings of these two short stories. In both settings, the actual identity of the described location is not given. The reader is left to only idealize the location which could be in any town or country. Both settings highly influence the characters in both stories as shown by their full involvement in the proceedings. Moreover, both settings dominantly fit within the plot of the stories. However, the time aspects of the two settings could still be changed without affecting their plots. The Lottery could still have taken place during an earlier historical period while The Destructors could also have fitted in any other time frame that had witnessed global war and terror without changing the plot.

Works Cited

Greene, Graham. The Destructors. Minnesota: Grantham, 1990. Print.

Hones, Sheila. "Literary Geography and the Short Story: Setting and Narrative Style."Cultural Geographies,

vol. 17, no. 4, 2010, pp. 473-485.

Jackson, Shirley. The Lottery and Other Stories. Bath: Chivers, 2011. Print.

December 12, 2023



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