FYS-102-DL2A: First Year Seminar
Adjunct Professor Camille A. Kramer
March 16, 2017
“The Lottery” is a short story written by Shirley Jackson. It was first published in “The New Yorker” in 1948. The morbid subject matter caused much controversy, but is considered to be her most famous work. In this paper, I examine the irony of the story. The word lottery typically means you’ve won something good, or of value, however here it refers to a gruesome public stoning of an individual.
Winner or Loser? Shirley Jackson’s epic short story, “The Lottery,” was published in 1948 and is surpisingly enough a pleasant recount of the events leading up to the shocking “grand prize”. It tells the tale of an inhumane tradition of a group of villagers who participate in a horrific ritual of stoning one of its members to death. Jackson’s writing style explores the dark sides of human nature by questioning stereotypes. She illustrates the struggle between choosing personal morals, versus playing a game of follow the leader. On the morning of June 27th, which was just like any other beautiful sunny day, the villagers gathered in the square at 10am, as was their usual custom. In this village, the lottery only took a couple of hours as opposed to others, where it was a 2 day event beginning the day before. There was a great deal of organization at first, with the children gathering first, the men second and the women last. I noticed that the men congregated away from the pile of stones. To me, this challenges the stereotype that men are expected to die first. Over the years, many aspects of the ritual have been discarded, such as substituting slips of paper for chips of wood, a recital to signal the start of the lottery and a salute to address each person, who drew from the black box. It’s symbolic of tradition as it has withstood time and remains relatively unchanged. Moreover, the lottery has remained a routine part of their lives that no one ever challenged. I wonder if they ever examined how or why this tradition even started. Today, common sense would tell us that this is not acceptable. It’s implausible to me that while the details and reasoning behind the ceremony have been lost, the townspeople certainly did not forget to be armed with stones. Mrs. Hutchinson arrives late to the ceremony in a very nonchalant fashion. She conveniently “clean forgot what day it was”. The mood is still light and serene, with the villagers joking amongst themselves. While the whole thing started out in a regulated fashion, things start to get a little scattered with figuring out whose going to draw for families with no husbands. I find this amusing since, “the people had done it so many times that they only half-listened to the directions.” I think this also reveals how the