The Lottery By Shirley Jackson Summary

Shirley Hardie Jackson is an outstanding American novelist and short story writer. Her life is deeply reflected in her writing. She wrote about everything that surrounded her and the way she perceived them. Jackson’s own life was not the cheerful mess that she described, but she wanted it to be. Perhaps unsurprisingly, a woman who wrote so charmingly of family life and so bleakly of life, in general, had a home life that was—at best—troubled.

The Lottery Shirley Jackson Summary

 Her one of the most famous short story The Lottery is often classified as a horror story. The plot develops in a small town that has an annual ritual called the lottery in which all the citizens take part. The person, who reaches out the paper with a black spot – wins the lottery and his prize is to be stoned to death by the town.

The Lottery Shirley Jackson Theme

The setting of the place, where the lottery is held, is in an ordinary town with a pleasant community. The people seem to be friendly, caring and supportive. They are sorry for Mr. Summers “because he had no children and his wife was a scold” (Jackson). They “separated good-humoredly” when Mrs. Hutchinson was late to the gathering. “Mr. Summers waited with an expression of polite interest while Mrs. Dunbar answered” (Jackson). Everybody is super kind and lovely. Such a politeness is described in order to highlight the hypocrisy, violence and inhuman brutality of the villagers. Thus, the setting is ironic as people find murder as a usual normal thing: “Seems like there’s no time at all between lotteries anymore.” Mrs. Delacroix said to Mrs. Graves in the back row. “Seems like we got through with the last one only last week.” “Time sure goes fast. – Mrs. Graves said.”, it is like a family holiday for them (Jackson).

The Lottery Shirley Jackson Analysis

Like a flock of a sheep blindly follows the shepherd, the same way the people in the story continued holding that lottery. They do not know the origin and the purpose of the event but still do it and judge the communities that got rid of this ritual: “Some places have already quit lotteries.” Mrs. Adams said. “Nothing but trouble in that,” Old Man Warner said stoutly. “Pack of young fools” (Jackson ). Then he added: “Next thing you know, they’ll be wanting to go back to living in caves” (Jackson). This quote serves as another example of irony in the text. As the man, who performs an uncivilized action of stoning, considers living in caves as uncivilized one.

The Lottery Shirley Jackson Symbolism

In my opinion, the stupidity of the lottery can be underlined by the words of Mr. Warner: “Seventy-seventh year I been in the lottery,” Old Man Warner said as he went through the crowd. “Seventy-seventh time” (Jackson). It means that they ‘play this game’ at least 77 years without realizing the cruelty of it. Number 77 can be considered as a symbol of sinners who lived before the arrival of Christ. 77 is the product of 7 (sands for the creature evolving) and 11 (stands for the number of sins).

The other symbol in a story is a black box: “The black box grew shabbier each year: by now it was no longer completely black but splintered badly along one side to show the original wood color, and in some places faded or stained” (Jackson).  The box is old and shabby but people refuse to make a new one. The box represents the tradition and unwillingness of the villagers to make changes and to give it up.
Thus, the lottery described in a short story is a vivid example of what can happen if traditions are not reviewed or judged critically by the new generation.

Get The Lottery Shirley Jackson pdf here.