Back before World War II, there was a time where occult practices and individual sacrifices were not too far between. Small towns participated in mass hangings and families were stoned to death all in the name of one God or another in order to produce mass crops or prevent withering among other reasons. Townspeople were blinded by tradition and ritualistic practices as opposed to the values of family and modern Christianity that are embraced today. In a short story called “The Lottery”, author Shirley Jackson walks her readers through a time when such things where not only allowed, but practiced on a regular basis.
“The village lottery culminates in a violent murder each year, a bizarre ritual that suggests how dangerous tradition can be when people follow it blindly.” (SparkNote, par. 1) Jackson uses suspense and history to taunt her readers as she explores an evening in a small town that ends in disbelief. Jackson perfects the art of surprise endings in her short story about a town Lottery taking place in what is described as the seventeenth-century where housewives “wore faded house dresses and sweaters” (Jackson, 24) and spent their days at home caring for the children as their husbands went off to labor on farms and mines to provide for their families. Shirley Jackson uses symbolic references and historical details to show how blindly following tradition can lead to disaster in this fictional story.
Originally published in the New Yorker magazine in 1948, “’The Lottery’ describes average citizens of an average village all taking part in an annual sacrifice of one of their own residents” (Hicks, par. 2). According to various reviews found in the Gale Databases, the responses to Jackson’s fictional tale were overwhelming. Some people were “disgusted and horrified” (Hrebik, par. 1), while others “wanted to know where this town was located so they could go and watch the lottery take place” (Hicks, par. 2).
Jackson did a wonderful job at describing the setting for her story within the first few paragraphs. I could really see the little boys piling up rocks and playing while the girls stood around in their dresses talking and whispering among themselves. Jackson’s ability to describe the moments leading up to the lottery is amazing. I felt as if I were there with the townspeople and Mrs. Hutchinson (one of the wives) as they awaited their fate.
As I read Jacksons surprising short story, my thoughts slowly developed as the curiosity built around how much money or valuables would be won through this random selection. I saw the people standing around a platform where Mr. Summers awaited the arrival of each and every family and all of its members; I saw Old Man Warner standing there with his grey hair and wrinkles that could only be earned after decades of hard work and a long trying life. Each and every individual that was described by Jackson in this story was depicted quite well making it easy for a reader to join in on the...