The Use Of Selective Exposition In The Lottery, By Shirley Jackson

1402 words - 6 pages

A typical story is littered with details, explaining the history of the world the story takes place in, who the characters in the story are, all the while remaining correlated to the plot and subplots that drive the story forward. The story The Lottery by Shirley Jackson however does not follow these conditions, as the reader is left to interpret a majority of the story on their own as it progresses. Jackson is not the only writer to incorporate a style of selective exposition in their work; Raymond Carver is widely recognized for his rejection of explanation and the use of characters that do not always communicate with one another, both of which are elements which Jackson incorporates into her own story. Initially, a lack of exposition may seem detrimental to the story, but instead it plays to the “mysterious nature of story” according to Charles E. May in his essay ‘Do You See What I’m Saying?’: The Inadequacy of Explanation and the uses of Story in the Short Fiction of Raymond Carver. Therefore, by refusing to expound upon setting, characters, and plot allows the author to create mystery, and the reader to form their own interpretations of the story.
Setting is one of the basic elements of any story because it presents the reader with a clear depiction of the world that the story takes place in; usually the more detailed the world of a story is, the easier it is for the reader to become ensconced and understanding of that world. Jackson does not follow this convention in her story, as she provides next to no details about the world The Lottery takes place, the only certain elements being that the story takes place on “The morning of June 27th...” and “[I]n this village there were only about three hundred people...” (235). It’s made obvious from the beginning that setting is not important, since so few details are given about the village it takes place in. Raymond Carver, writes in a similar fashion, using very little details under the realization that: “...it’s possible, in a poem or a short story, to write about commonplace things and objects using commonplace but precise language, and to endow those things...with immense, even startling power” (qtd. in May 48). This selective exposition has two purposes; the first being that this lack of details doesn’t distract the reader by presenting tangent subplots, and secondly, it increases the mysterious nature of the town, in turn making the revelation at the end of the story all the more shocking.
Another trademark that Raymond Carver is known for, one that Jackson also incorporates, is his use of characters that do not directly state their intent in his stories. With minimalism being the virtual heart of his style, Carver’s stories sometime seem like they lack motivation. Charles May writes that Carver’s story Gazebo is specifically about how pointless explanation actually is, more specifically about “...what one says when there is nothing left to say (42-43). Jackson’s story mimics Carver’s...

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