Many authors use mood shifts in their stories to leave a greater impact on the reader and make it easier to understand. The particular state of mind or feelings of a person is ones mood. Various aspects of ones surroundings can alter a mood. A story often creates a specific mood or even causes a number of different moods to arise in a short period of time. Shirley Jacksons short story, “The Lottery” does just that, by forcing different moods to surface in various sections of the story. The peaceful mood at the storys beginning, the anxiety that gradually builds, and the eventual horror at the storys conclusion demonstrate mood shifts in this story.
The mood at the beginning of the story is very happy and pleasant. “The morning of June 27 was clear and sunny, with the fresh worth of a full-summer day; the flowers were blooming profusing, and the grass was richly green”(112).This quote describes a beautiful scenic picture, which gives the reader an implication of peace and calmness. The village seems to be conducting a normal, uneventful day. At ten oclock the villagers began to gather in the square. Everyone in the town is moving about, having conversations with the other townspeople who gather in the square. “Soon the men began to gather, surveying their own children, speaking of planting and rain, tractors and taxes”(112). This describes how nothing is happening and it is just a regular day with ordinary conversations. The readers mood is one of happiness and calmness. It is not until further through the story the reader begins to detect small details that imply that something out of the ordinary is about to occur in the townspeoples peaceful lives.
The cheerful pleasant mood at the beginning of the story slowly fades, as the tension and suspicion rise. Within the story the reader begins to detect small hints which suggest everything is not as it seems. The anxiety grows as the lottery approaches. “He held it firmly be one corner as he turned and went hastily back to his place in the crowd, where he stood a little apart from his family, not looking down
at his hand”(115). The mans nervous movements imply that some unusual action is going to take place. “By now, all through the crowd there were men holding the small folded papers in their large hands, turning them over and over nervously”(115). This quotation reinforces the suspicion that the lottery has a more important meaning, than assumed at the beginning of the story. The reader is now feeling curious and anxious, in comparison to the happier mood at the beginning of the story. Many subtle clues leave the reader extremely eager to discover what major event is about to occur.
At the end of the story, the reader finally comes to the shocking discovery of what the lottery really involves. The small sheets of paper everyone has to pick told who was going to be brutally murdered. The final selection is narrowed down to one family, the Hutchinsons. Every family member had already selected a blank page, which insured their safety, except for Tessie Hutchinson. She hesitated to unfold her paper because it was inevitable that she had the black dot. “Bill Hutchinson went over to his wife and forced the slip of paper out of her hand”(116). The quote relays fear to the reader by delaying the ritual, therefore, Tessie would not meet her unnecessary death. After the paper is revealed by Tessie Hutchinson, the villagers move in on her as she stands desperately with her hands out. “It isnt fair she said. A stone hit her on the side of the head”(116). These quote describe the cruelty of the depraved villagers. The reader now has a mood of horror, disgust, and shock.
Shirley Jacksons clever shift of moods within “The Lottery” greatly adds to the readers enjoyment and involvement with the story. The cheery atmosphere at the beginning of the story gives the reader a feeling of peacefulness. Before too long, as the tension rises, suspicion grows inside the reader and makes one ponder what is truly happening. The shocking conclusion finally leaves the reader with a terribly disturbing mood.