Type of paper: Essay

Topic: Literature, Lottery, Symbolism, People, Family, Writer, Tradition, Slip

Pages: 2

Words: 550

Published: 2020/11/01

The Lottery

The short story by Shirley Jackson, depicting an unexpected plot line in a very extraordinary manner, is considered to be a horror story. The writer addresses various fiction techniques in order to distract and lull the reader’s attention, and shock and terrify the audience in the end of the story. They gather together to participate in a lottery, but the readers get to know what is the “prize” only in the end of the story. A very interesting and horrifying plot is supported by various fiction elements, for instance, reflection of characters, setting, symbolism, bright imagery, etc. which all together saturate the story with a deep sense and breathtaking effect and represent the theme of the story in the most astonishing and startling way.
The first thing to analyze is the setting of the story. In fact, it is depicted in a bucolic manner. The great event of lottery takes place in a small American village of about 300 residents on a regular working summer day. Children have their holidays and play together cheerfully, families are busy with their routine and later on assemble on the square for the traditional annual meeting. The atmosphere in general is calm and relaxed, they behave like nothing special is going to happen. On the other hand, such meeting on the square should be of high importance and it is obligatory for every village resident to be present. However, everything looks too calm and careless. It arouses our suspicion and makes us feel we should expect something unpleasant. And the lottery starts.
The basement of the story is the originally created plot. It evolves around the process of lottery between the villagers. Mr. Summers is the authority and leads the whole process of the event. Other ordinary peasants with their wives and kids gather to view and participate in this predictably honorable ceremony. However, all that resembles some strange ritual. It is a duty for everyone to come and take their challenge. But one of the main characters Mrs. Hutchinson is a bit late for the rite, as she totally forgot about it saying "Clean forgot what day it was" (10) to her friend, but that was actually for the definite reason. Still, the procedure of the lottery is quite usual: Mr. Summers calls the head of each household and he draws a slip of paper from the most precious and most sinister object of the lottery, namely, weird black box which is not changed for many years. Nobody opens the slip right away, but awaits a command from the authority which seems quite antidemocratic and very herdlike. Young people try to object this ingrained tradition and fatuous superstition, but its dedicated bearers call those who already stopped conducting this ritual “pack of crazy fools," (15) as they strongly believe in this tradition and they will never give it up, most probably until they win the lottery. It appears that Bill Hutchinson draws the winning slip of paper, and there he receives a black mark on it. His wife, Tessie starts protesting, and willing to have more chances not to win herself and give this privilege to her child says that her daughter did not vote for her family. The voting is repeated once again between the members of Hutchinson family only and the person who now receives a black mark on her lucky ticket is Tessie. Though the victory meant quite different thing now. In simple words, Tessie has to become a victim for collective sacrifice and she is “marked-black” to death. What is the most horrific and shocking is that all her neighbors and friends, and moreover, her own husband and small kids become her executors without a whit of sympathy or grief. The writer made the plot of the story so much thrilling and scaring by depicting this habitual violence, herdlike behavior and blind following of such traditions and pagan customs.
The characters of the story are quite specific as opposed to other stories, but all they have something in common, in particular, high respect to their tradition, firm belief in it and the addiction to violence, already rooted in their life and consciousness which cannot be destabilized by any of the strongest human feelings, like love, sympathy, kindness, etc. The irony of Tessie’s destiny is that if someone else was on her place, she would be eagerly bearing her violent and seemingly entertaining duty imposed by tradition, but as soon as she is going to be stoned to death herself, she desperately cries "It isn't fair, it isn't right." (20) Now it is just a black box that decides which role Tessie plays this year: the role of the killer or the role of the victim. Even more vivid irony is described when her verdict is returned. And by whom? First of all, by her husband, and second of all, by the person whom she has just saved from death. It is shown in the following passage: “Bill Hutchinson went over to his wife and forced the slip of paper out of her hand. It had a black spot on it Bill Hutchinson held it up, and there was a stir in the crowd.” (20) This situation reveals all evil of those people, all their monstrosity and mockery of humanity in general reflected in all characters of the story. Simultaneously, we can name another main character, namely, the whole crowd. It serves as the main executor, the main influence or, better, pressure, the main unity which elaborates the plot.
The story “The Lottery” is opulently saturated by symbolism which greatly influences the imagery and development of the theme. The most crucial symbolic meaning have such objects and phenomena, as square, black box and black spot. The first one symbolizes the place for community gatherings, votings, meetings, rituals, etc. It is essential and highly symbolic that in the story people assemble on such a place and do important things together. The other vivid symbol is the black box. Firstly, its color denotes something dark, unpleasant, frightful. Secondly, it unintentionally alludes to the Pandora box, which from the ancient times has a very symbolic meaning as it keeps everything bad and evil inside and causes calamity and grief. Consequently, the writer chose it deliberately. This symbolic object is the reflection of these people’s tradition and their souls. Another equally important symbol is the black spot on the slip of paper chosen by the winner. It originates from the times when pirates were using this black mark to show their judgment or verdict and to bring fear to people. In addition, there are very interesting speaking names in the story: understandable “Mr. Graves” which symbolizes the death itself, “Mr. Summers” which emphasizes the period of the event and its significance. “Old Man Warner” is a symbol of this cruel act himself, since he says “Seventy-seventh year I been in the lottery” (15) and symbolizes a live tradition of barbarous human sacrifice.
The most valuable side of the story is its intention. This story is based on the writer’s point of view about such social phenomena as mass pressure and violence of the crowd. The writer here presupposes that if the group of people (giving the prize to the lottery winner) moves in a wrong direction, then we should not be afraid to oppose or protest killing and strangling of human feelings and emotions. Shirley Jackson has learnt this lesson from her personal experience when she moved to a small town and was always left-out and never accepted to the society there. She tries to appeal to us that people are evil and we should control our actions and live a conscious life. The writer describes her position and point of view using a serious and sometimes ironical tone in her story as she reveals serious attitude to such social issues, but is sometimes skeptical and sarcastic about people’s behavior. It is neither expressive or emotional, nor humoristic or horrific. The story is very plain and simple, without using any epithets or metaphors, or colorful descriptions of images. Imagery here is created more on subconscious level and the writer did manage to draw a very precise picture of the crowd and the process of lottery itself. Moreover, the terrifying effect is created and triggers the necessary reaction of the readership.


As a result, the story “Lottery” by Shirley Jackson is aimed at the antisocial direction and revealing all evil or negative people have, especially when they are strongly influenced by a crowd, or tradition, or stereotypes. The writer perfectly described the ordinary but at the same time original procedure of lottery of life and supported it with the corresponding symbols and images. Consequently, the story in question is literarily horrifying and shocking and psychologically truthful.

Works Cited

Jackson, Shirley. The Lottery. Mankato: Creative Education, 2008. Print

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WePapers. (2020, November, 01) Good Example Of Shirley Jackson Essay. Retrieved May 22, 2022, from https://www.wepapers.com/samples/good-example-of-shirley-jackson-essay/
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"Good Example Of Shirley Jackson Essay." WePapers, Nov 01, 2020. Accessed May 22, 2022. https://www.wepapers.com/samples/good-example-of-shirley-jackson-essay/
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Good Example Of Shirley Jackson Essay. Free Essay Examples - WePapers.com. https://www.wepapers.com/samples/good-example-of-shirley-jackson-essay/. Published Nov 01, 2020. Accessed May 22, 2022.

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