“The Lottery: So Odd and Normal: On Jaya Lakshmi’s blog, a Faceless Author”
Citizens in a sleepy town stone a housewife as part of an annual ritual. How can these people accept something this brutal as standard routine?
The answer: It’s normal for them.
Most cartoonists who have read How to Make Webcomics would label this story as “The odd thing done normal.” In humorous comic strips, this method guarantees humor if done right.
How do we know that this story is not a joke on the readers? Shirley Jackson shows us. We get this rising dread according to the characters’ reactions, especially Tessie’s. If it weren’t for this rising action (the term for increasing suspense as the story proceeds), then we would have no idea where the story was going, but we have SOME idea of what’s going to happen, just not what exactly. Ms. Jackson never lets up on us, taking a slow pace with the story. Instead of telling us that they stone one person every year, she hints at it and shows us through her words. And then we reach the climax, where we create the image in our hands. A cartoonist would probably close in on Tessie’s eyes as she screams “It isn’t right.”
Of course it isn’t right, but for that town it’s certainly normal.