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The Lottery by Shirley Jackson

“The Lottery” is a true expression of Jackson’s genuine thoughts about human beings and their evil capabilities. December 14, 1916, Shirley Jackson was born. When she young she started writing in a journal in 1932. She went to college on and off for a couple of years, until she wrote and published her first book in 1941,”My life with R.H. Macy”. It wasn’t until further short stories were written she published, “The lottery” in 1948(Hrebik). Jackson was interested in revealing the evil within everyone on her stories. She wrote “The Lottery” knowing that numerous suggestions and implications would arise from her readers. “The Lottery” reveals Jacksons bold style of her unique writing. When the word “lottery” is mentioned, most would think of receiving a large check or a prize instead of receiving stones that knock you down until your beat to death. The conclusion of the story is most shocking because Shirley misleads the reader in the beginning, and she only gives is hints of what happens towards the closing stages.

Jackson shows the importance and meaning of ancient vegetation rituals that the village in her story believed was part of their survival in order to ensure good fertile crops. In “The Lottery”, Old Man Warner states, “Lottery in June, corn be heavy soon” (Jackson 143). The germination of crops is essential for us to eat, even from back in the past till now in the present. The growers had to sow their seeds and then wait in hopes that it would grow properly. “from this hope brings ritual”. Some growers thought that the farming of crops symbolized the “life cycle”. The seeds that were sown symbolized death, but with a little water and sun the seeds that grow symbolize the rebirth.”Life brings death, and death recycles life” (Griffin 44). The ritual that the community performs every June was for a legit reason washing away the sins of the town and blessing the crops so that the town could eat. The death of Mrs. Hutchinson was for the benefit of the entire community; her family should feel proud. There are still those that think “The Lottery” should end and that it is not fair.
Shirley also leaves the principle of stoning open to many views of readers. The villagers threw rocks at an innocent random person until death for the sake of blessing the town with a fertile crop. They don’t remember why they are doing this, but what they do know is that is it tradition and has been for many years. For many periods sacrifices for the purpose of pleasing a god were required according to the villagers. Throughout the different ages sacrificing human flesh for the sins committed started to also apply to the ritual of the farmer’s vegetation (Friedman 63-64).The stoning resembles an ancient tribe in past history, the vicious Aztecs of Mexico. The gods that the Aztec killed came back in a ghostly manner to create the Aztecs’ world, and the Aztecs feel duty-bound to pay back to the gods what they gave the Aztecs (Burdick 72). Shirley implies that the reason the town is sacrificing death to the gods is to receive blessing in return for their fruitful crops. “One of the central challenges for any religion is to evolve and adjust ancient scriptures to modern life” (Kristof). Today’s society must take the old traditions, rituals and scriptures and alter them into the modern day. For example, the Bible states” a stubborn and rebellious son” shall be stoned to death (Deut 20:20-21). As most of the people today, we see these practices to be savage and unacceptable. The reason for our society to view this behavior today contributes to the shocking feedback Shirley received for the ending of her story.

Jackson displays a good sense of irony in “The Lottery”. The use of irony is a recurrent theme in this story. No one would have expected Mrs. Hutchinson to be stoned to death. The style of Jacksons writing misleads the reader with the tone of the story starting off as a nice summer day which seems descent and friendly (Jackson 141). The people of the village do not panic or show much fear, nor do they delight in joyfulness. The town’s people seem to be in a state of neutral for the sake of being noticed too much. Mrs. Hutchinson declares to Mrs. Delacroix that she was cleaning before “The Lottery” and just forgot, when clearly she know it was time for “The Lottery” since the day of death would be hard to forget. Jackson also leads us to believe that the story is about winning something when it is actually about how they have lost the true meaning of “The lottery”. The young boys and girls simply huddle together by one another instead of joining by their parents (Jackson 141). This might indicate that the children have a troubled sense of trust with the adults of the village. Mrs. Hutchinson mentions towards the narrowing of drawing in her family that her daughters should draw form the black box as well (Jackson 143). The title, the plot and climax of this story all contain bits of irony within them.

After reviewing “The Lottery” and pointing out Jacksons illustrations of importance to Sacrifice, Tradition and Irony we have noted several conclusion. The meaning and understanding of ancient vegetation rituals that the community in her story believed was an element of their survival to ensure fertile crops. The difficulty with the town was that they had forgotten the true meaning of the ritual lottery that they performed every June. The town only knew that it was performed every year and had been for centuries. Shirley also allows the scrutiny of sacrificial stoning, open to many opinions of readers. “The Lottery” is entwined with much irony. Shirley shocks readers with her irony and unexpected vicious conclusion when they grab the biggest rocks and start throwing them at Mrs. Hutchinson. No one won anything. If they got the paper with the black spot they were doomed to death. The main theme in “The Lottery” was Jackson’s fine sense of irony, and how she misleads her readers to thinking the conclusion of her story was not what they expected. This is a bold and unique story that teaches many moral lessons many would not think to realize in “The Lottery”.

Burdick, Alan.”Empire of Blood.” Discover 2003:72. MAS Ultra-School Edition. Web.24 Feb.2010.

Deuteronomy 20.20-21.”Bible: New International Version. N.p.1984.BibleGateway.com. Web.7 Feb.2010

Friedman, Lenemaja. Shirley Jackson. Boston: Twayne Publishers, 1975. Print

Griffin, Amy A.”Jackson’s: The Lottery.” The Explicator 58.1(1999):44. Literature Resources from Gale.Web.8 Feb. 2010.

Jackson, Shirley. “The Lottery.” Literature: An Introduction to Reading and Writing. Edgar V. Robert. New York: Pearson Education, Inc, 2009. 141-145. Print

Hrebik, Dale. “Shirley Jackson.” Dictionary of Literary Biography 234(2001):n.pag. Literary Resources from Gale.Web.8 Feb. 2010.

Knox, Rose.”Savagery in a Modern Setting: Jackson’s Shocking Revelation of a Highly Evolved Society.” North Florida Community College. Madison, Florida. 12, February 2010.

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