Expect the Unexpected
What thoughts come to mind when you think of “The Lottery?” Positive thoughts including money, a new home, excitement, and happiness are all associated with the lottery in most cases. However, this is not the case in Shirley Jackson’s short story, “The Lottery”. Here, the characters in the story are not gambling for money, instead they are gambling for their life. A shock that surprises the reader as she unveils this horrifying tradition in the village on this beautiful summer day. This gamble for their life is a result of tradition, a tradition that is cruel and inhumane, yet upheld in this town. Shirley Jackson provides the reader’s with a graphic description of violence, cruelty, and inhumane treatment which leads to the unexpected meaning of “The Lottery.” Born in San Francisco, Jackson began writing early in her life. She won a poetry prize at age twelve and continued writing through high school. In 1937 she entered Syracuse University, where she published stories in the student literary magazine. After marriage to Stanley Edgar Hyman, a notable literary critic, she continued to write. Her first national publication “My Life with R.H. Macy” was published in The New Republic in 1941but her best-known work is “The Lottery.”(Lit Links or Reagan). Jackson uses characterization and symbolism to portray a story with rising action that surprises the reader with the unexpected odd ritual in the village. While one would expect “The Lottery” to be a positive event, the reader’s are surprised with a ritual that has been around for seventy-seven years , demonstrating how unwilling people are to make changes in their everyday life despite the unjust and cruel treatment that is associated with this tradition. According to Hague, Jackson’s “powerful visions of suffering and
inhumanity” are expressed through symbolism and characterization in “The Lottery”. (2005). The short story is a reflection of her despise of cruel and unjust treatment of human beings as she tells the story of a town’s tradition of sacrificing a human in return for a good harvest. (Reagan 1997) Jackson begins the story with a description of a small village that held a Lottery in the early part of summer each year. Jackson provides a peaceful description of the village, “… clear and sunny, with the fresh warmth of a full-summer day; the flowers were blossoming profusely and the grass was richly green (Jackson 251). The setting she creates symbolizes a happy, pleasant day, leading the reader to believe something positive would occur on this 27th day of June. Jackson further describes children playing happily, women conversing, and men speaking of “planting and rain, tractors and taxes”(Jackson 252). They speak of farming because the traditional ritual in the story is conducted based on a belief that the ritual has an effect on the crop, “Lottery in June, corn be heavy soon” is a popular saying in town (Jackson 256). As the reader continues, the prospect of a pleasant day is further symbolized as Jackson describes the people gathering in the square between the post office and the bank before the lottery starts. She describes the gathering of the women prior to the drawing: “They greet one another and exchanged bits of gossip…” (Jackson 252). This further leads the reader to believe they are gathering for a pleasant event, the winning of the lottery. However, much to the reader’s surprise, this pleasant day ends up being a cruel, inhumane ritual, that results in the loss of an innocent life. The author continues to engage the reader as she describes the role of the children in “the Lottery” who “…broke into boisterous play…and eventually made a great pile of stones in one corner of the square and guarded it against the raid of other boys” (Jackson 252). This is also one example of foreshadowing that Jackson uses that make the reader question why the children are collecting rocks. The collection of rocks by the...
Cited: Coulthard, A.R. “Jackson’s THE LOTTERY.” The Explicator 48.3 (1990): 226-228.
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