Shirley Jackson Criticism

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An author’s contributions to the world of literature are many times welcomed as a brilliant piece of work or a genius accomplishment. However, during the life of Shirley Jackson, her stories were many times received poorly due to their dark nature or their pedestrian humor. Even her most famous work, “The Lottery”, was met with outrage and criticism by Americans and literary critics. During her time, horror and humor were seen as minor writings that no one took much notice of. In Janet M. Ball’s analysis of Shirley Jackson, she states that, “Because Jackson chose to handle unusual topics, such as psychosis and ghostly apparitions, some literary critics relegated her to minor status.” (1). Even though she was disregarded during her own time,…show more content…
The seemingly normal village is using a lottery system to pick a human for sacrifice that is executed by the villagers themselves. In one analysis it is thought that, “In a sense, the villagers of “The Lottery” are paying homage to sympathetic magic: One human sacrifice equals another good year of crops.” (Ball 1). It appears that this is why they are continuing the tradition of yearly human sacrifice around the time of harvest or summer solstice. This horrific event is amplified by the characters attitudes, environment, and outward normality. In another analysis, it states, “Nevertheless, the characters seem so wholesome, so stereotypically small-town American, that it is easy for the reader to overlook the clues that Jackson provides.” (Du Bose, 1). The slaughter of a fellow villager has become such a mindless habit to the villagers that they don’t question the reasons or morality of the lottery. The village is almost desensitized from violence and appears that they are unable to make their own conclusions about morality or human nature. In Patrick J. Shield’s article, he analyzes the characters and states, “They do not question the authority and tradition of these executions that has convinced them that what they are doing is somehow in their best interest”…show more content…
While humor wasn’t what made her famous, but it allows her readers to witness another side to her writing. Opposite to her humorous family stories, her accomplishments and legacy of subtle horror and psychological suspense continue to seep into modern stories, movies, and media. While her themes have long been expressed through literature, she brought a new perspective to horror, especially through “The Lottery”, which was as famous as it was controversial. The use of subtle shock, unimaginable twists, and an incomplete ending allowed her to provoke a severe reaction from her readers. Despite the criticisms and questionable popularity of her works during her lifetime, we can appreciate Shirley Jackson’s additions of psychological suspense and the faults of human nature to the horror

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