Analysis of Shirley Jackson's Short Story, The Lottery


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Analysis of Shirley Jackson's Short Story The Lottery


Shirley Jackson’s “The Lottery” is a great short story. It focuses on a small village that has a “lottery” every year. This lottery is a ritual that has been passed down since the founders of the village. Everyone participates, but it is not clear in the beginning what happens when someone wins the lottery. It keeps you reading to find out what happens.
Jackson used irony to great effect in this story. The fact that the story is called “The Lottery” is ironic as the winner doesn’t win anything at all. Everyone has a preconceived idea that winning the lottery is a great thing and something that they want to happen to them. Winning the lottery in this story means being stoned to death and it is not the outcome anyone imagined.
Jackson foreshadowed events to come when she described the children stacking rocks early in the story. When you first read it this detail doesn’t mean much. It is disregarded as just children playing. Later when the stones are used to stone Mrs. Hutchinson you remember the children stacking the stones and you get the ‘ding’ sound that goes off in your head.
The style of the story made you feel like this was informal. The interactions between the villagers seemed normal and what was expected from a small village. It never let on to the atrocity that eventually would come. It wasn’t until late in the story when Mrs. Hutchinson was starting to protest that you felt something bad was going to happen.
The setting of this village was great as well. You could see this little village with all the villagers gathering round for this lottery. The descriptions she used about the village made you feel upbeat as it was a bright sunny summer day and something good was in the air as everyone was gathering. The setting ties in with the foreshadowing of the events as you never expect what is going to happen early in the story.
I think that I can learn from Jackson’s use of foreshadowing. She uses it to great effect and it really hits you when actually see what is happening.

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You do not forget a story that does that to you. I thought of Raymond Carver’s essay about his first writing class. He spoke of a classmate who wrote a story about a man who is crippled and withheld that information until the last sentence. It was disapproved of as a cheap trick. The proper way to have a twist is to foreshadow. Leave details in. Let the reader discover all the little clues you left, but don’t purposefully leave out a major detail to add a twist.


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