"The Lottery" by Shirley Jackson: Cruelty or Human Nature?

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  • Topic: Short story, The Lottery, Shirley Jackson
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"The Lottery" by Shirley Jackson: Cruelty or Human Nature?
Shirley Jackson, the author of the short story, "The Lottery", is the daughter of Beatrice and George Jackson. Jackson was born on August 5th, in 1946. Some background on Jackson is that she graduated college with a Bachelors of Science Degree in Physics from Massachusetts Institute of Technology. ("Shirley Ann Jackson") Jackson had many accomplishments in her lifetime. She received many awards, metals, and honors. Jackson was appointed to chair the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, she was elected as chairman of the newly formed International Nuclear Regulators Association, and she then joined the ranks of U.S. college presidents on July 1, 1999, where she assumed the top position at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. She was featured on the cover of the March issue of Black Issue in Higher Education. Jackson graduated from Roosevelt High School as valedictorian of her class ("Shirley Ann Jackson"). Shirley Jackson is most remembered for her being a Theoretical Physics and getting good grades, because that is what got her where she was at (Shirley Ann Jackson). A list of her works: •The Road Through the Wall, 1948

•The Lottery, or, The adventures of James Harris, 1949
•The Lottery, 1950
•Hangsaman, 1951
•Life Among the Savages, 1953
•The Birds Nest, 1954
•The Witchcraft of Salem Village, 1956
•Raising Demon, 1957
•The Sundial, 1958
•The Haunting of Hill House, 1959
•The Bad Children, 1959
•We Have Always Lived in the Castle, 1962
•Nine Magic Wishes, 1963
•Famous Sally, 1966
•Come Along With Me, 1968 (Ward 7)

Shirley Jackson is a contradiction or perhaps just the other side of the idea of an author who fails to make any impression during their lifetime, and is only later discovered by a new generation. Ms. Jackson is an author who was successful both popularly and critically in her short working life, who is now almost forgotten, a thing both unreasonable and criminal (Ward 1). In a brief personal sketch produced for Twentieth Century Authors, she stated "I very much dislike writing about myself or my work, and when pressed for autobiographical material can only give a bare chronological outline which contains naturally, no pertinent facts" (Ward 2). Jackson kept to herself for most of her life.

One piece of work that Jackson got published was the story "The Lottery". This story was published in the June 28, 1948 issue of the New Yorker. It received a response that "no New Yorker story had ever received" (Shirley Ann Jackson). There was a very conventional way of reading it; one that both touches upon a basic human truth and offers fairly little offense to anyone (The Brothers Judd 1). People were criticizing it and characterizing it by "bewilderment, speculation, old-fashioned abuse." ("A Reading" 1). In the July 22, 1948 issue of the Francisco Chronicle Jackson broke down and said the following in response to persistent queries from her readers of her intentions: "Explaining just what I had hoped the story to say is very difficult. I suppose, I hoped, by setting a particularly brutal ancient rite in the present and in my own village to shock the story's readers with a graphic dramatization of the pointless violence and general inhumanity in their own lives." ("A Reading" 1). She definitely shocked her readers with her response.

A survey of what little has been written about "The Lottery" reveals two general critical attitudes: first that it is about man's ineradicable primitive aggressively, or as Cleanth Brooks and Robert Penn Warren calls his "all-too-human tendency to seize upon a scapegoat", second, is describes man's victimization by, in Helen Nebeker's words, "unexamined and unchanging traditions which I could easily change if he only realized their implications." ("A Reading" 1). According to J.D. Chandler, Jackson seems to be conveying two main messages in this story. First she is telling...
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