The Lottery and Other Stories

The Lottery and Other Stories Summary and Analysis of "Of Course"

Mrs. Tylor notices a new family moving into the house next door and takes the opportunity to greet them. The family consists of a couple and a young child, about the same age as one of Mrs. Tylor’s daughters, Carol. However, the father is not there; Mrs. Tylor only meets the mother, Mrs. Harris, and her son James Jr. Mrs. Tylor kindly offers to babysit James Jr. so that Mrs. Harris can tend to the moving. She suggests that her children take James to the movie theater, only to find out that Mr. Harris disapproves of movies and forbids his family from watching them.

Mrs. Tylor invites Mrs. Harris and James Jr. to take a break from moving at her house. Carol, her daughter, must play with James Jr., though she does so unwillingly. Over the course of their conversation, Mrs. Harris tells Mrs. Tylor that Mr. James Harris, her husband, abhors the radio and newspapers, and he only reads pre-Elizabethan plays. The Harrises disliked their previous neighbors because they had left a copy of the New York Times on their doorstep.

As the conversation progresses, Mrs. Tylor realizes acutely that the Harrises may not be as ideal as she had hoped, for the family does not seem to share any of the same interests or activities as her own family. When she suggests that the couples play bridge together, Mrs. Harris reveals that her husband also disapproves of bridge.

As soon as Mrs. Harris and her son return to their own house, Mrs. Tylor takes her daughter Carol to the movies.


"Of Course" is another story in the collection that contains a character named James Harris, the neighbor's son, whose father is Mr. Harris. Though Mr. Harris does not actually appear in the story to interact with the characters, he is a forbidding presence who dictates his young family's actions. His rejects various acceptable activities, common to most people, such as listening to the radio and watching movies. His wife describes to Mrs. Tylor how he is so unable to deal with the annoyances of moving house that he has retired to his mother's house. Furthermore, he detests newspapers and does not allow anyone in his family to read them either. These idiosyncrasies add up to form a characterization of Mr. Harris as a dominant, overbearing, and unreasonably forbidding man.

Mr. Harris is the antagonist to Mrs. Tylor, the protagonist, who forces herself to uphold the societal convention of politeness and acceptance, no matter what she internally thinks. While he defies societal conventions by rejecting normal activities, she conforms wholly to societal conventions by maintaining the facade of politeness, even though Mrs. Harris's description of the Harris family horrifies her.

When Mrs. Harris touches upon the truth of Mrs. Tylor's inner thoughts, she does so uneasily. "Mrs. Harris looked at her and laughed uncomfortably. 'You'll be thinking my husband is crazy'" (169). This is an example of dramatic irony; the reader is privy to Mrs. Tylor's thoughts and knows definitively that she does harbor growing reservations about befriending the Harrises so hastily, wherein lies her internal conflict. Initially, Mrs. Tylor is eager to meet new neighbors who have a child, James Harris, similar in age to her own daughter. Very quickly, as Mrs. Tylor learns more about Mr. Harris, she begins to have serious misgivings about her previous enthusiasm to befriend the Harrises. To Mrs. Tylor, Mr. Harris does indeed sound rather crazy. Mrs. Harris, however, is only dimly aware of this fact and cannot verify it.

Like many other stories in this collection, "Of Course" takes place in a quintessential domestic setting: a small town populated by housewives and children, while the men are unseen, presumably at work, or in Mr. Harris's case, escaping the burden of household responsibilities. Women feature prominently in Jackson's short stories, with the major exception in this collection being "Like Mother Used to Make." However, in many of her vignettes taking place in small towns, the protagonists and main characters are generally women, and the conflict usually surrounds their interactions with one another. In "Of Course," then, the main characters are Mrs. Tylor and Mrs. Harris. The conflict arises when Mrs. Tylor realizes that her new neighbors may not be as wonderful as she had initially hoped. Instead, they seem to have peculiar and extremely restrictive habits, which may later affect her own lifestyle and family (if, for example, the Harrises were to complain that the Tylors played their radio too loudly).

Again, the presence of Harris foreshadows an unpleasant encounter. As soon as the new neighbor introduces herself as Mrs. Harris and her son as James Harris, the reader understands—particularly after reading previous stories featuring James Harris—that Mrs. Tylor will shortly suffer some unpleasantness. And Mrs. Tylor does, as she learns more about the Harris family and comes to realize that they are not ideal neighbors. Still, she is unable to express this sentiment towards Mrs. Harris.