When “The Lottery” was first published in 1948, it created an enormous controversy and great interest in its author, Shirley Jackson.
Shirley Jackson was born in San Francisco, California on December 14, 1919. When she was two years old, her family moved her to Burlingame, California, where Jackson attended high school. After high school Jackson moved away to attend college at Rochester University in upstate New York but after only a short time at Rochester and, after taking off a year from school, she moved on to Syracuse University. At first, Jackson was in the School of Journalism at Syracuse but soon moved to the English Department to pursue her interest in writing. Jackson soon started publishing works in the school news paper and eventually, she and a classmate and future husband, Stanley Hyman started their own magazine under the supervision of teacher, Leonard Brown, who Jackson later described as her mentor.
After graduating from Syracuse in 1940, Jackson and college sweetheart Hyman married and moved to Vermont. In Vermont, Jackson did a lot of writing, publishing many books, children’s stories and humorous pieces, including a book about family life titled “Life among Savages.” “The Lottery” was a radical departure from the tone and contents of her other works. (http://reagan.underthesun.cc/sjackson/sjackson1.html)
In 1948, Jackson wrote what turned out to be probably her most famous short story entitled “The Lottery.” When “The Lottery” appeared in the New Yorker, it created a huge controversy and received a lot of press for its dark psychological horror. Many people believed that “The Lottery” was about how society can be cruel to individuals, the violence in society and the overwhelming need of humans to conform to the norms of society without regard to right or wrong. Many people found the story gross and disgusting because of the surprising murder at the end of the story. The story has been interpreted by many literary critics and scholars with the general conclusion that “The Lottery” is a satire on the willingness of people to engage collectively in abhorrent behavior, racial prejudice, and sexism all of which are social evils” (Barr 248-49). Jackson recalls when she first got the idea to write “The Lottery.” “The idea had come to me while I was pushing my daughter up the hill in her stroller-it was, as I say, a warm morning, and the hill was steep, and beside my daughter the stroller held the day’s groceries-and perhaps the effort of the last fifty yards up the hill put an edge to the story; at any rate, I had the idea fairly clearly in my mind when I put my daughter in her playpen and the frozen vegetables in the refrigerator.” It is pretty clear from Jackson’s description of her writing process that she did not intend it to be full of the many hidden meanings and messages that critics and scholars have read into it (Hyman 182).
Shirley Jackson’s “The Lottery” illustrates several aspects of the darker side of human nature....