EN102: Composition II
The Lottery by Shirley Jackson: An Analysis
The short story “The Lottery” by Shirley Jackson was written in 1948 and takes place in a small town, on the 27th of June. In this story, the lottery occurs every year, around the summer solstice. All families gather together to draw slips of paper from a black box. When reading this story, it is unclear the full premise of the lottery until near the end. The heads of households are the first to draw a piece of paper from the black box. The paper with the black dot on it indicates which family is to draw again. Then pieces of paper for each family member are placed in the box and each family member must draw again from the black box. The paper with the black dot on it determines which of the family members is to be stoned to death, as stated in the story towards the end. There is much symbolism in this tale, from the black box used to store the papers, the papers themselves, to the wooden stool used, the time and day the lottery takes place, the names of the participants, the method for killing the chosen one, and the chosen one herself. Though the story can be construed as somewhat morbid, there is much to be learned from the story “The Lottery”. The black box used in this story is described as being shabby and “in some places faded or stained”. There was talk of making a new black box, but no one took any action to do so. Danielle Schaub in her critical essay “Shirley Jackson’s Use of Symbols In ‘The Lottery’” says the color of the black box indicates death, mourning, and Ingrid Kouyialis – Page 2
punishment. The description of the box being stained may indicate that it was stained by blood. She also likens the black box to Pandora’s box, of which the contents are unknown, and once the box is opened, there will be disastrous results. Also, the fact that the box was shabby, and though there was talk of making a new one yet no...
References: Danielle Schaub. “Shirley Jackson’s Use of Symbols in ‘The Lottery’”. Journal of the Short Story in English. Twentieth-Century Literary Critcism. Spring 1990.
Helen Nebeker. “’The Lottery’: Symbolic Tour de Force”. American Literature. Contemporary Literary Critcism. March 1974.
Linda Wagner-Martin. “’The Lottery’: Overview”. Reference Guide to Short Fiction. Literature Resource Center. 1994.
Fritz Oehlschlaeger. “The Stoning of Mistress Hutchinson: Meaning and Context in ‘The Lottery’”. Essays in Literature. Contemporary Literary Critcism. 1990.
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