The title sets the stage for the growing suspense throughout the story. The idea of a “Lottery” creates expectation (Jackson, 1), as lotteries are associated with huge outbursts of exuberance and emotion. The audience is, from the title alone, expecting a surprising event that will have a great deal of impact on the participants of the story. The expectation of the reader is probably that the surprising event will be positive – “lottery,” in the traditional sense, is associated with a windfall. This positive sentiment adds to the growth of suspense, because it adds a high from which to fall – a neutral moving to a negative is not as strong as a positive moving to a negative.
While the title of the story tells the reader something exciting and explosive will happen, the symbolism gives the first hints to the reader that that something will be dark and dangerous. The first of these symbols are the “stones” that the village boys gather – stones being the crudest and oldest tools, and also associated with murder since before the time of Christ (Jackson 2). The “black box” that the lottery is held in also serves as a symbol of death (Jackson 5), black being a common color for death and boxes having intense association with coffins. These symbols give the first clues that the surprise of the lottery will not be positive, as one would usually suspect, but in fact very dark.
Characters add to the growing suspense in a variety of ways. Firstly, some of their names seem to have value in foreshadowing the conclusion of the story. The Delacroixs, for instance, have particular attention drawn to their name, including an explanation of the pronunciation (Jackson 2). Delacroix of course means “of the cross” – a reference to the most well known of human sacrifices in Western society, the sacrifice of Jesus for the sins of humanity.