Shirley Jackson’s short story “The Lottery” presents the reader with a seemingly idyllic town that actually participates in a horrific annual ‘lottery’ event. The story can be considered as part of the horror genre, as the characters in the story blindly follow a tradition that involves a lottery in which the winner is actually stoned to death by the villagers. Throughout the story, Jackson masterfully creates suspense through the choice of words. The setting that Jackson depicts in ‘The Lottery’ uses imagery to trick the reader into thinking that everything is fine in the little village. Jackson foreshadows the violent demise of ‘lottery winner’ Tessie Hutchinson in the second paragraph of the story, noting that children, including “Bobby Martin had already stuffed his pockets full of stones, and the other boys soon followed his example,” and that they “eventually made a great pile of stones in one corner of the square and guarded it against the raids of the other boys” (103). Jackson describes routine children’s activities of play and learning in a classroom, as well as the children filling up their pockets with stones which will later be used in the finale (335). Jackson continues to build the story by describing how all of the citizens of the village start showing up in the square and casually begin conversing. The story’s setting and date play a significant role in the plot development because it illustrates how mankind can behave in such a barbaric manner even in a setting of supposed mundane peace. American author Helen E. Nebeker analyzed and wrote an essay about ‘The Lottery,’ exploring the symbolism of religion and anthropological elements of the story, even correlating the time of summer to ancient rituals. The reader can assume that following a tradition blindly without questioning or understanding all details can be dangerous – even if it involves one’s very own loving neighborhood…
Jackson’s writing style in “The Lottery” can be compared to authors such as Stephen King, an author who writes primarily on horror and mystery. Jackson can be seen as a pioneer of mysterious stories. Although she was mostly known for writing short stories, Jackson served as a role model for many women and writers in general during the mid-twentieth century, which was a male-dominant era. ‘The Lottery’ takes place on June twenty-seventh, but without a specified year, which alludes to the fact that this savage side of humanity can happen at any time. Following society norms can be seen as an influential factor in the thoughts of people of any sort of group. This is really shown in ‘The Lottery’ as it narrates a story of guilt and betrayal with an overall depressing tone about villagers stoning a resident because of an ongoing, but morally questionable and unnecessary tradition.
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During the story, Jackson draws the reader into the life of a woman named Tess Hutchinson, who is the ‘lottery winner’ and as a result, the victim of the village stoning. Jackson employs the use of Allegories whilst creating dialogue among characters to demonstrate the villagers’ overall and seemingly unanimous mentality towards the village lottery. For example, Old Man Warner gives his opinion on the lottery, sharing that there “used to be a saying ‘Lottery in June, corn be heavy soon.’ First thing you know, we’d all be eating chickweed and acorns. There’s always been a lottery.” (340). Clearly, the villagers do not question the lottery tradition and justify it as a necessary and positive part of their community and lives. Another village is briefly mentioned in order to make the reader aware that the other village has stopped participating in the lottery because it took too much time, lasting about two days, instead of their own village’s lottery, which lasted only two hours. The villagers have this mentality that the lottery should not be questioned, showing ignorance to all other alternatives, or even considering an ending for the lottery altogether.
In conclusion, ‘The Lottery’ by Shirley Jackson portrays a twist-filled and engaging piece of fiction. It has an overall truthful and scary view on society that can be related to events that occur in this modern time and shine a light on the savage side of humanity that tries to mask itself with innocence. Jackson writes a cult classic of a story that demonstrates the frightening and ludicrous acts of terror that happen inside of traditions. The story ‘The Lottery’ draws the reader in and unfolds the truth of the village’s lottery at the climax, while teasing and hinting at evil every moment of the way. At the end of the story, it was Bill Hutchinson, the husband of Tess Hutchinson, who reveals that many traditions are flawed and suspicious, seeing that he picked his own wife out of the black box and killed her within the first stone thrown.