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Ideally, Start at the Beginning

Logical assumptions can be drawn from various types of texts. A logical assumption is simply an idea that can be inferred, or identified, in a text without the writer stating it in an obvious way. One simple example may be the logical assumption that if you do not turn in your homework, your teacher will be disappointed in you. Your teacher may not state this out loud, but it can be applied or assumed that the disappointment will be there. This sort of deductive reasoning (because x, then y) can be applied to many sorts of literature. To further illustrate this idea, we will be looking at Virginia Woolf’s non-fiction essay, ‘A Room of One’s Own’ as well as the fictional short story, ‘The Lottery,’ by Shirley Jackson and the logical assumptions a reader can infer from each of these texts.

The Logic in Non-Fiction

Virginia Woolf
Virginia Woolf

‘A Room of One’s Own,’ published in 1929, is an essay which stresses the need for and importance of women having a voice in literature and, to a larger extent, society. Woolf states, most blatantly, ‘an opinion upon one minor point–a woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction; and that, as you will see, leaves the great problem of the true nature of woman and the true nature of fiction unsolved. I have shirked the duty of coming to a conclusion upon these two questions–women and fiction remain, so far as I am concerned, unsolved problems.’ Right away, several logical assumptions can be drawn from this passage alone:

  • Virginia Woolf is a feminist, which means that she believes in the rights of women and that men and women are equal and should be treated accordingly in society and the workplace.
  • Women in 1929 were not treated the same way as women in the 21st century.
  • Female writers of this time were probably not treated the same as their male counterparts.

Although Woolf does not say the above statements in so many words, we can gather (or assume) these ideas based on the context of what she is saying. Because women were regarded as lesser than men in the early 1900s, then it is logical to assume that Virginia Woolf is expressing her own uncommon ideas about feminism and the rights of women.

Fiction Has Patterns, Too

Written a couple decades after Virginia Woolf’s essay, Shirley Jackson’s short story, ‘The Lottery’ contains similar logical assumptions. The story is about a town of villagers who have gathered for an annual lottery. It is not until the end of the story that the reader learns the lucky ‘winner’ of the lottery is stoned to death by the others, though we never discover the reason behind this gruesome tradition. (Modern readers may be able to draw a comparison between Jackson’s story and Suzanne Collins’ Hunger Games trilogy, which contains a similar theme.)

At several points in the story, the narrator explains that the villagers adhere to various facets of this tradition (including the gruesome ending) for reasons not even they remember: ‘The original paraphernalia for the lottery had been lost long ago, and the black box now resting on the stool had been put into use even before Old Man Warner, the oldest man in town, was born.’ Near the end of the story, it is revealed that ‘although the villagers had forgotten the ritual and lost the original black box, they still remembered to use stones.’ The villagers don’t seem to understand why they adhere to this yearly lottery; yet, they can’t seem to let it go. Like Woolf’s essay, there are several logical assumptions in Jackson’s story:

  • Though the story ends with the line, ‘It isn’t fair, it isn’t right,’ Mrs. Hutchinson screamed, and then they were upon her,’ it is appropriate to assume that Tessie Hutchinson, the unlucky lottery winner, was killed by her family and friends.
  • The need for these villagers to uphold their tradition is stronger than the ethical argument against the murder of a young girl.
  • The village contained ‘only about three hundred people,’ so it is possible that they had little to no contact with the outside world, and that bred this insular, homicidal environment.

Because Jackson’s work is fictional, these logical assumptions are more subjective, that is, they may be interpreted differently by multiple readers, because there is no way of proving their truth. Nevertheless, the assumptions listed above are possible ways of further understanding the larger context of the story and the motivation of Jackson’s characters.

Lesson Summary

Both ‘Room of One’s Own’ and ‘The Lottery’ contain textual material that can lead the reader to logical assumptions. The primary difference is that the assumptions in a non-fiction text can usually be verified while the assumptions in a fictional text are usually subjective and can change with the reader. Logical assumptions can be found in many types of texts as long as the reader carefully analyzes the larger context in which the written work takes place.

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