May 29th, 2013
Shirley Jackson was born on December 14, 1916, in San Francisco to a family with somewhat of a social position. She was not really the daughter that her parents wanted especially for her mother. Her mother thought of her as ugly, she wanted a daughter that was beautiful and a fool, unfortunately Shirley was neither of those things. It was said that she looked like her father with reddish-blonde hair, light eyes and fair complexion. Shirley was one that had the ability to see right through people, “straight sown through the layers of appearance, of convention, of style, of hypocrisy - right into the nutty core of reality itself” (Oppenheimer 17). As a young teenager the family decided to move to Rochester and this is where she felt like an outsider and felt rejected. Some say that because of what happened to her in high school of being rejected by the sorority is what made her write “The Lottery”. “The Lottery’ was first published in The New Yorker on the June 26th, 1948 issue, and boy did it ever stir the pot. There was “an unprecedented outpouring of fury, horror, rage, disgust, and intense fascination” (Oppenheimer 128). This story was “in incredibly bad taste,” “nauseating” and “gruesome”, some even said that this was “a new low in human viciousness” (Oppenheimer 129). Many people wanted to know where she came up with the idea for the story. There were a lot of speculations but we will never know the truth as to why Jackson wrote “The Lottery”. Some say that her husband Stanley was a big part of why she wrote the story. Jackson has told several people different stories as to how she came up with this story. She told some friends that this was based on anti-Semitism. Others were told this was based on her personal encounters with a shopkeeper; she told someone else that the characters were all from people she knew in North Bennington. She even told one of her old professors that she got the idea for the story from taking his class. Only Jackson knows why she wrote this story. This was maybe the closest description of how she viewed human evilness throughout her life experiences.
Jackson brewed a lot of controversy when she wrote her short story “The Lottery”, because it talked about a horrific tradition that involved the sacrificing of a member of the community by stoning that person to death. In many ancient cultures it was believed that in order to grow healthy and plentiful crops which represented the “cycle of life” one had to sacrifice a person or animal in order to make the “gods” happy and them in return will grant a season full of crops. “By transferring one’s sins to persons or animals and then sacrificing them” would cleanse you and your crops from any bad vibes. This tradition was better known as “the Scapegoat archetype” (Griffin 44-45). Many people believed that Jackson was trying to “use this Archetype to build on man’s inherent need for” (Bloom 43) tradition.
As you read “The Lottery” you don’t come to the conclusion that someone is going to get murdered. Jackson makes it seem that you are about to read a story about a town on a wonderful Summer’s day with “calm description of the lottery procedure – the reader is given more commonplace details about the workings of the lottery than about any of the characters – helps counterpoint the horror of the final ritual that the story leaves to the reader’s imagination”. It was said that “The point of ‘The Lottery’ is that blind adherence to traditional forms of behavior that have lost their original meanings and acquired no new, positive ones, can be destructive”. This is clear in this story that an old tradition is very destructive and violent. Now and through history there have been plenty of “traditions” that we find weird or strange and wonder why people followed them. Why would you live in a town that picks a name out of a box to see who gets stoned to death in order to