The Purpose of Shirley Jackson's 'the Lottery'

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Written by Shirley Jackson, The Lottery focuses on the cruelty of man in its most raw state- the sacrifice of an innocent human being at the hands of the people with whom that person lives with. Written in 1948, this short story was published by Jackson in New York, where the audience of this story reviewed it ferociously, claiming that it was the most absurd story they have read. No one understood the message Jackson wished to convey across to the reader. However, looking deep, we find that there are several messages she wanted us to get. First and foremost is the fact that a group of people will go with what society lays before them, often without questioning it. Why was the lottery performed year after year? Even in the text, the people had long forgotten why and stopped doing the lottery the way it had been performed years ago. Yet, the lottery tradition continued. It makes you wonder why no one ever stopped to ask, “Hey, why are we doing this again?” By showing that no one had ever actually made a big deal out of it, Jackson shows the way people will not going against the norm of their society, even if they feel it is wrong.

The mood of this story shifts in this story. This shift causes the story to have three phases: the beginning which gives off a sense of calm and curiosity as to why they are all gathered up and such’ then as it goes towards the middle, we get a sense of something being out of place. And lastly, towards the end, we come to the awful realization of what is going on. These shifts in mood are mostly conveyed through certain phrases in the story. In the beginning, “The morning of June 27th was clean and sunny, with the fresh warmth of a full-summer day;” gives us that nice feeling of a happy story. Curiosity sparks when we read a little more and see, “… their jokes were quiet and they smiled rather than laughed.” With a name like ‘The Lottery’, one would expect happiness all around and a good time. But this fact of how people are acting...
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