Individuality vs Community in Shirley Jackson's The Lottery Essay

Individuality vs Community in Shirley Jackson's The Lottery Essay

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Individuality versus Community in The Lottery

The works of Shirley Jackson tend to the macabre because she typically unveils the hidden side of human nature in her short stories and novels.  She typically explores the darker side of human nature.  Her themes are wide-ranging and border on the surreal though they usually portray everyday, ordinary people.  Her endings are often not a resolution but rather a question pertaining to society and individuality that the reader must ask himself or herself.  Jackson's normal characters often are in possession of an abnormal psyche.  Children are portrayed as blank slates ready to learn the ways of the world from society.  However, adults have a hidden side already formed and lurking beneath the perceived normality of the established social order.  We see this best in Jackson's most famous short story, The Lottery.  Jackson's uses many elements of fiction to demonstrate how human nature can become desensitized to the point of mob murder of a member of their own community.  One of the ways she does this is through character.  While the shocking reason behind the lottery and the gruesome prize for its winner are not received until the ending, the characters come back to haunt us for their desensitized behavior earlier in the story.  For example, the children in the beginning of the story innocently gather stones as normal children might, yet their relish in doing so becomes macabre once we find out the purpose for which that are collecting them "Bobby Martin hard already stuffed his pockets full of stones, and the other boys soon followed his example, selecting the smoothest and roundest stones; Bobby and Harry Jones and Dickie Delacroy...eventually made a great pile of stones in one ...

... middle of paper ... many similarities when it comes to technique, characterization, themes, and ideologies based on the author's own beliefs and life experiences.  However, we also see that it appears the author herself often struggles with the issue of being herself and expressing her own individuality, or obeying the rules, regulations and mores of a society into which she was born an innocent child, one who by nature of her sex was deemed inferior to men who controlled the definition of the norms.  We see this kind of environment as repressive and responsible for abnormal psyches in the plots of many of her works.


Jackson, S.  The Lottery.  (Internet) 1-8.

Jackson, S.  We Have Always Lived In The Castle.  New York, Penguin, 1962.

Mukamel, E.  The Irrepressible Individual In The Works Of Shirley Jackson.,  May 13, 2004, 1-7. 

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