Critical Analysis Of The Lottery, By Shirley Jackson

3102 words - 12 pages

In the short story "The Lottery," author Shirley Jackson creates a very shocking and horrifying situation through the use of characterization, setting, and the theme of the individual versus society, which is portrayed in the story as scapegoating. She writes as if the events taking place are common to any town (Mazzeno 2). The story was very unpopular when first published, mostly because of the fact that people did not understand it. The story of the all-to-familiar town, ordinary in every way except for the ritualistic murder taking place has since grown great popularity, even being adapted for television, ballet, and radio (Lethem 1-2).

Shirley Jackson's short story entitled "The Lottery" was published in an issue of "The New Yorker" on June 28, 1948. Because it was such a controversial piece, the story caused an uproar resulting in hundreds of letters sent to Jackson. These letters told of how the story was horrifying and terrible to read. Most of them, however, wanted to know if the events taking place in the story realty happened and if they could go watch them. "One of the most terrifying aspects of publishing stories ... is the realization that they are going to be read, and read by strangers. I had never fully realized this before, although I had of course in my imagination dwelt lovingly upon the thought of the millions and millions of people who were going to be uplifted and enriched and delighted by the stories I wrote. It had simply never occurred to me that these millions and millions of people might be so far from uplifted that they would sit down and write me letters I was downright scared to open; of the three-hundred-odd letters I received [the summery "The Lottery" was published] I can only count thirteen that spoke kindly to me, and they were mostly from my friends" (Jackson 253).

The life of Jackson was a very big influence on her style of writing. She was fascinated with the paranormal and even voodoo and witchcraft. Jackson had a strange fascination of the psychology of human beings as well. She noticed the "disturbed, disposed, misunderstood, or thwarting" characteristics of people and of people to each other. Jackson was incredibly good at picking out the impurities of the human psyche and exploiting them to a great extent (Lethem 1). The village portrayed in "The Lottery" is said to be the same village where Jackson resided. She was a mother of four, married to Stanley Edgar Hyman. She was somewhat of a social outcast in her town. Eventually, her psyche was reshaped by the hostility and persecution of the villagers of the town (Lethem 4). Even before she moved to the town, Jackson had an obvious split in her personality. One side of her was a fearful, shy one which she brought to life in many of her stories. The other side of her was almost a direct contrast, being expulsive and bitter. This side of Jackson drank and smoked, rejected society, and this is the side of her that was fascinated by magic and voodoo....

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