The Lottery by Shirley Jackson

What a story! Shirley Jackson really knows how to surprise her reader. She has the reader guessing that the lottery is a good thing almost till the very end when he/she learns it is in fact a death sentence. Nothing in the beginning suggests the gruesome ending. The villagers are portrayed as a rather ordinary group of people who seem friendly and who get along well with each other. June 27th appears to be a day just like any other. The children are busy making the piles of stones and their parents are involved in casual conversations with their fellows. The author uses an easy-going tone to describe the annual lottery event and the people who take part in it.

My first clue that the situation may not be as bright as Mr. Summer who is in charge of the lottery is the irony hidden in some of the people’s names. For instance, Mr. Graves, the postmaster of the village, symbolically represents the main authority figure in the community. His name literally refers to the word ‘grave’ which is the ultimate reward of the lottery. In one of the disturbing scenes in the story, Mr. Graves opens little Dave’s tightly held fist to take out the piece of paper.

The winner of the lottery is no one else but Dave’s mom, Tessie. The fact that she is the one to show up late for the event reveals an underlying irony as well. She is reluctant to participate but still won’t say or do anything to change this senseless

ritual. In other words, Mrs. Hutchison is a hypocrite just like all the other people in the story. If she weren’t the chosen one, she would’ve not said a word but instead would gladly pick a stone and throw it at one of her people. We all have a little bit of Tessie in ourselves. We close our eyes to certain situations because we don’t want to get involved or be bothered unless it personally affects us. Shirley Jackson makes a statement here by figuratively saying that we all have an evil side to ourselves, and are reluctant to change something perceived as tradition even when we are aware of its own destructiveness.

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One response to “The Lottery by Shirley Jackson

  1. This is another wonderful response. I like that you see through to the metaphors in this story. Many students are confused about what Jackson is actually doing in this story. Great job!

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