The Lottery

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07 December 2009

Shirley Jackson’s “The Lottery” – A Feminist Perspective

Shirley Jackson’s short story, “The Lottery” details the obvious gender roles in the small village where it takes place and also represents those that are often present in our own society. Women are often seen as inferior to men in societal groups. In “The Lottery”, this is represented by the absence of any dominant female character in the story. Gender roles are evident among the villagers; even the children are guided by these social norms. Jackson illustrates this early in the story when the boys collect stones for the lottery (representative of the masculine nature) and “the girls stand aside talking among themselves . . .” (representative of the feminine nature). A complex social structure in which the villagers conform to a strict convention of gender roles is revealed throughout the story. The people in Jackson’s imaginary village are deeply rooted in tradition and intensely resistant to change. Jackson presents a clear view of the traditional roles that men and women fulfill in this society. Male characters in “The Lottery” represent the conventional man of society; one who enjoys hard labor and is the supporter of his family. Female characters on the other hand, characterize the stereotypical tradition in which the women take care of the home and family. One literary critic explains that “In ‘The Lottery’, men and women fill traditional roles, the women working in the kitchens, the men in the fields" (Bogert, 46). In this pragmatic village that is governed by tradition and gender, women are subordinates to their husbands as well as to society. As the townspeople gather for the annual lottery drawing, the men assemble first and “the women follow shortly after their men folk”. This is symbolic of the social hierarchy of a society that believes men come before women. “The Lottery” is an allegorical representation of society’s imperfect principles and the effects on its...
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