Written in 1948, Shirley Jackson shocked her readers with the arguable twisted short story called, “The Lottery”, published in the New Yorker magazine. Both hated and loved by many, this controversial story is hard to ignore. It was the best known and most baffling to readers. Shirley Jackson was born in December of 1919 in San Francisco. She was one of the most brilliant and influential authors of the twentieth century. She was known as the author of horror and mystery classics. Her marriage to Stanley Edgar Hyman produced four children, and Jackson maintained a tedious writing career during her marriage resulting in four novels.
Fig 1. “The Lottery”
Fig 1. “The Lottery”
The peaceful hometown setting and surreal tone leads to a harsh captivating ending that leaves the readers mind puzzled and shocked. The story takes place in a small village of about three hundred people filled with friendly faces on June 27th. Note that the first paragraph states: the day is "clear and sunny, with the fresh warmth of a full-summer day; the flowers [are] blossoming profusely and the grass [is] richly green." Nothing bad could possibly happen on a day like this. The lottery, an annual social celebration, takes place on the same day in every city, town, and village. The village people, all ages, gather around Mr. Summer, the lottery official who calls names out of the black box. The lottery is spoken with so much excitement that the reader can assume the winner will get a prize of some sort. Only at the end do we find out that the winner is stoned to death by family, friends, and neighbors like the man shown in Fig 1 holding a stone.
The primary literary device used is irony - the use of the unexpected. “The Lottery” is effective because it reveals, although it is fiction, how traditions are carried out even after several decades. It shows us the emotion of how stronger these people felt about sacrificing someone else even if you loved them to get something they want. The people in the story played a game of chance basically because the lottery was a tradition and it had always been one. The completely bypassed their own beliefs and feelings to get rid of the lottery because it had always been around. They would not even get rid of the black box used for the lottery because it was sentimental to the villagers. They didn’t want to get rid of the box because it was passed down to them from the people who founded the village. When Tessie was the “winner” of the lottery, her own children laughed when they found out it wasn’t them who received the slip of paper. Tessie’s own son, Dave, got a stone to beat her to death with. The emotion of the story amazes the reader because who could think of killing their parents or anybody for that matter.
Shirley uses authority and credibility when describing why the villagers didn’t want to get a different