The Lotery by Shirley Jackson

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Not every lottery has a favored prize. Sometimes, as in the short story examined here, it is best to lose. Author Shirley Jackson, a 1940 graduate of Syracuse University, lived in Vermont in 1948 when she wrote her most famous work, “The Lottery.” She liked to entertain readers with psychological thrillers and suspense-filled stories and wrote with a “peculiar talent for the bizarre” (Ragland). Her writing is described as “unemotional narrative style.” She “reveals men and women to be timid, conformist, callous, and cruel” and gives a depressing view of human nature since she believed that people possess more evil than good and tend to resist change (Ragland). Jackson shows how the reluctance of the village people to question tradition has a disastrous conclusion when the reader is shocked to learn that the winner of the lottery will be stoned to death. Her short story begins on June 27th as the villagers gather in the town square to take part in the annual tradition of the lottery. Each member draws a slip of paper and the one marked with a black dot represents the winner. The outcome and unexpected tragedy is that this winner is immediately stoned to death. The men and women of the town seem to follow, without question, this ritual that has been performed annually for much longer than the oldest villager has lived. In her shocking story “The Lottery,” author Shirley Jackson reveals that to follow tradition without question can have horrific consequences through her characterization of the villagers and Mrs. Tessie Hutchinson and her clever use of foreshadowing and symbolism.
For as long as they can remember, the people of the village have been expected to participate in the lottery. This long standing tradition h...

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...orks Cited

Jackson, Shirley. “The Lottery.” The Lottery and Other Stories. Ed. A. M. Homes. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2005. 291-302. Print.
Ragland, Martha. “Shirley Jackson.” American Novelists Since World War II: Second Series. Ed. James E. Kibler. Detroit: Gale Research, 1980. Vol. 6 of Dictionary of Literary Biography. Literature Resource Center. Web. 9 Mar. 2014.
Schaub, Danielle. “Shirley Jackson’s Use of Symbols in ‘The Lottery.’” Journal of the Short Story in English 14 (1990): 79-86. Rpt. in Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism. Ed. Thomas J. Schoenberg and Lawrence J. Trudeau. Vol. 187. Detroit: Gale, 2007. N. pag. Literature Resource Center. Web. 9 Mar. 2014.
Wagner-Martin, Linda. “’The Lottery’: Overview.” Reference Guide to Short Fiction. Ed. Noelle Watson. Detroit: St. James Press, 1994. Literature Resource Center. Web. 9 Mar. 2014.

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