The Lottery

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Interpretation of an Artistic Text
Written and published in 1948, “The Lottery” by Shirley Jackson is today ranked as “one of the most famous short stories in the history of American Literature” according to author Laurie Harris. This short story focuses on a village that every year has a lottery to determine which of the towns’ people will be sacrificed in order to guarantee a good harvest for the coming year. The readers are deceptively led to believe that the lottery is a normal, casual event when in actuality it is a horrific tradition followed out of fear. A close study of theme, conflicts, conventions, style, and context in and around The Lottery reveals that religion and tradition, especially when used in a universalizing sense, is a powerful force used to control the masses. Through Shirley Jackson’s The Lottery, the author carefully uses symbolic names and objects, as well as strong historical and biblical allusion to develop this theme. In this story, the religious delusions of the townspeople lead them to believe that the punishment of others is more important than penance for themselves. However, she represents a hard line with no forgiveness, being why she picks up the stone and tells everyone else to join her at the end of the story. An example of how this story connects to religion is the quote from the bible, “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone,” from when Jesus saved a woman from a crowd about to cast stones. In keeping with the religious theme, the fact that the townspeople use ritualistic stoning to ensure a good harvest is another way that Shirley Jackson shows how antiquated many religious beliefs are. The villagers do not see any crime in stoning one person each year because they view the stoning as a way to cleanse themselves. It is as if the stoning eradicates any sins done by the villagers just like Jesus Christ’s death on the cross allows God’s followers to be forgiven for their sins. Some villagers are so devoted to this...
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