Holy fuck, that ending!
Reading this post-Hunger Games, going into the story I had a suspicion that the lottery winner would be something undesirable, yet the actions of the townsfolk had me second-guessing the entire time what the outcome would be.
Jackson cheerfully paints the setting of a perfectly normal town, where everyone has gathered for some kind of recurring annual ritual that lasts approximately two hours. Why are they there? Why do people seem nervous? Yet there is also a sense of normalcy
in the air, as some people chat casually to each other, that you start to wonder if the lottery's outcome is all that bad. A latecomer arrives, and people grin at each other and crack quiet jokes. Maybe it's for something good, you begin to think. Jackson describes as the man running the lottery goes through the logistics, like making sure everyone is present, and determining replacements for the few that can't be there. Someone mentions that other towns have ended this tradition, and someone else replies that they're crazy to do so. Well, the lottery must be a good thing, you start to think, if that's his opinion. If it was something bad, then families would move to the towns where this didn't occur, wouldn't they? There is a sense of order and propriety as a slip is then selected by the heads of each household, with the instructions that they must not be looked at until all have been given out. Then, at a signal, the "winner" is determined. This is the moment that you begin to think that something is, in fact, very wrong. The winner's wife starts to cry out about mistakes and unfairness, and you realize that being the winner of the lottery is something very bad. But what is it? The ritual continues, as the winner's household is specified, and your dread grows. Why are they also accounting for the children? In some way, you don't want to know what will happen to these people. There is a second lottery, but now it is with just these few people. A young son, who must not be older than toddler-age is even participating, though his innocence shows as he has no idea what is going on around him. The second batch of slips are then opened. You sigh in great relief, along with the other townsfolk as the youngest, then the middle and oldest child all reveal blank slips that will clear them from whatever horrifying ordeal will then occur. Because you know now that what will happen soon will be horrifying. You just don't know what it is yet. Then the final winner is revealed. Now you know the who. But the what? And this is when a small detail from the beginning of the story, what you thought was idle actions of the bored will now come into play. And now there is a high anticipatory air to the crowd, and you begin to realize something, though you don't want to believe it. This can't be it, can it? This can't be the purpose of the entire ordeal? But then it begins. And the story ends, leaving you with a raw feeling of horror and many nightmares to come.