The analysis of “The Lottery” is very controversial and the views among most critics are very different. There are two main points of views among common critics. They are those who see the story as a traditional narrative and those who see it as a modern-day parable. Critics who read “The Lottery” as a narrative tends to agree that the surprise ending was faulty and the lack of character development made reader identification difficult. On the other side of the spectrum, critics see the story as parable and argue that there are elements of the story that are consistent with the style and structure from stories of the Old Testament. Generally, all critics agree that the exact meaning cannot be determined. However, a few critics, such as Shirley Jackson, take a whole new standpoint on “The Lottery.”
While reviewing Shirley Jackson’s “The Lottery”, Peter Kosenko looks at religious and social themes found in the story. He inspects how the society was dominated by men who control the town both economically as well as politically. They seem perfectly fine with the idea of killing a fellow member of the society and find pleasure taking out their aggression and anger on the winner of the lottery. Kosenko discusses Shirley Jackson’s views on society as a whole. He believes that this story is a direct representation of man’s cruel ways and their inhumane practices against their own kind. Kosenko also analyzes the story through a Marxist approach (The political and economic philosophy of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels in which the concept of class struggle plays a central role in understanding society’s allegedly inevitable development from bourgeois oppression under capitalism to a socialist and ultimately classless society). Peter Kosenko wonders if there is a relationship between the town’s wealthiest businessman and his officiating the lottery. If so, is this relationship purely coincidental or does it suggest something more. Aside from Mrs. Jackson, one may never know, but Kosenko paints the picture that the town vaguely represents a communist society, with Mr. Summers being its dictator, thus deleting all forms of social class.
Critic Thomas Votteler, author of Short Story Criticism: Experts from Criticism of the Works of Short Story Writers: Vol. 9, proclaims that Jacksons best work is “The Lottery”. He regards it as a satire of human behavior and social institutions, and exemplifies some of the central themes of Jackson’s fiction, including the victimization of the individual by society, the tendency of people to be cruel, and the presence of evil in everyday life (Votteler, 248). He goes on to explain that a sense of security is felt by the reader during the first pages of the story. This is due to the fact that the town seams extremely normal and the environment is familiar to us all.
The final major critic is Fritz Oehlschlaeger. He explains that one way the story can be seen is as the portrayal of a male-controlled society’s way of controlling females. It is quite obvious that men control woman in this society. Mr. Hutchinson forced Mrs. Hutchinson to give him the paper, and then held it high, showing everyone the fate of his beloved wife (577). He didn’t have any sympathy for Tessie, and was apparent he had total control over her. Also, Oehlschlaeger points out that Mr. Summers only asks “fellows” to help him with the lottery (573). This, he argues, makes it clear that men have complete control over the women in the society.
The analysis of “The Lottery” is very controversial and the views among most critics are very different. There are two main points of views among common critics. They are those who see the story as a traditional narrative and those who see it as a modern-day parable. Critics who read “The Lottery” as a narrative…
Marxist Criticism on The Lottery by Shirley Jackson Essay
The story The Lottery continues to bring forth heated debates since its publication. The story touches the nerves of people as they try to interpret its meaning. The focus of this paper will be on a Marxist criticism of the story.
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Kosenko (1985) posits that the story employs Marxist undertones. According to him, the story symbolises an attack on capitalism. The story attacks the ideology and social order of the town. One Marxist explanation for the story lies in the symbol of the black dot made on a paper for the lottery. The black color of the dot represents evil that is linked to business, which in turn stands for capitalism.
For example, Mr. Summers who draws the dot is involved in the coal business. He represents the powerful class in capitalism that has the control of the town both politically and economically because Mr. Summers also administers the lottery (Kosenko, 1985).
Moreover, the location of the lottery at the town square between two buildings- the post office and the bank represents the political and economic power of the government and those in power such as Mr. Graves and Mr. Summers. The common people stand no chance against the capitalist order.
The lottery is an old tradition that represents the rigidity of a capitalist society. The ritual of the lottery has been in the town for so long that the people no longer know its origin but continue to practise it annually. When some people suggest that other towns have abandoned the ritual, the Old man rebukes them and says that the ritual must go on because it is tradition.
The old man represents people in a capitalist society who opt for maintenance of the status quo. They are afraid of abandoning the way they do things to continue benefiting at the expense of the majority. The people are deluded by the lottery that the society is democratic hence they will not criticize the ruling class.
The people in the society are made to believe that the lottery is democratic and anyone stands an equal chance of selection. There is a possibility that Summers knows the paper with the black dot and his family members are safe from being stoned at the lottery. Thus, we can say the lottery is an election for the powerful but a random selection for the common people.
The story also depicts the social order in a capitalist society in which few powerful individuals control the rest of the society. For example, the powerful people in the lottery are Mr. Summers, Mr. Graves the postmaster and Mr. Martin the grocer respectively. These three individuals are powerful in the small town due to their position.
To illustrate this point when the lottery is picked it is asked who has picked it, was it the Watsons or the Dunbars. The two families mentioned are not powerful in the town. Why did they not ask whether the Graves or the summers had it? This shows that the powerful are in control of the lottery and have no chance of being victims of stoning.
In addition, the women in this society are low in status. They have no power and only the men in their families can pick the lottery for the families and if the man of the family is absent, his son represents him instead of the wife. Just like in a capitalist society, people who have no power have no say in the affairs of the society, which is left to the powerful few.
Finally, the author of the story seems to criticize a society that oppresses the weak and depends on outdated practices to maintain discriminative social order. The lottery helps the powerful to continue to control the town in other words capitalism goes on to enable Mr. Summers and his likes remain in positions of power.
Kosenko, P. (1985): A Marxist-Feminist Reading of Shirley Jackson’s ‘The Lottery.’
New Orleans Review, 12, 27-32.
The story The Lottery continues to bring forth heated debates since its publication. The story touches the nerves of people as they try to interpret its meaning.