The Lottery Analysis: Essay on Shirley Jackson's Short Story

The Lottery Analysis: Essay on Shirley Jackson’s Short Story

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Topic: Literature
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The Lottery by Shirley Jackson is one of the most recognized short pieces of literature in the US. First published in 1948, it quickly gained popularity due to various psychological aspects of the story. The following analysis of The Lottery is going to talk about it in detail.

Introduction

The “lottery” in the story is an annual event. Family members and friends randomly select a person in the city to be stoned to death. Long ago, it was to ensure that future harvest will bring a sufficient amount of food. At the time of the story, no one remembers this reason. The whole atmosphere of the ‘normality’ of such an event created by the author is very persuasive. Every person in the village is confident that this kind of practice is natural and cheerfully welcomes it.

Lottery arrangements start the night before the event. Mr. Summers and Mr. Graves draw up a list of all of the big families in town. They plan a set of lottery tickets, one per family. All of these tickets are blank, except for one marked with a black dot. The slips are folded and put in a wooden box, which Mr. Summers keeps in his office.

Shirley Jackson’s short story, The Lottery, shows the many sins committed by humanity. It takes place in a remote American village. In this setting, traditions and customs dominate the local population.    

‘Death’ characterizes the final destiny of all the activities described in this short story. It is viewed as a redeemer of many atrocities done against one another by individuals. The Lottery analysis essay introduces characterization methods and the setting.

The Lottery Analysis

Actions and the general behavior of people are among the most remarkable characterization methods. Although this book does not contain many of them, the few acts that affect the characters define it.

For example, the story introduces Mrs. Delacroix as a determined lady with a quick temper. Her action of picking a big stone expresses it. The rock is “so big that she had to pick it out in frustration with two hands ….” (Shirley 76).

Events of the story show that Jackson is condemning the humankind’s hypocrisy and evil nature. “They greeted each other and exchanged bits of gossip … handling each other without a flinch of sympathy …”, is written in the story (Shirley 281). The reader expects the lottery to be advantageous in some way to the villagers. Nothing of value is achieved, though, in the form of such practice.

Jackson depicts horrific and terrible things done in an ordinary manner that suggests underlying human evilness. Every evil deed in the book is done in a friendly and relaxed setting. Thus, it becomes clear that humans are deceiving in their nature.

The presentation of the whole story does not look menacing until near its end. The author seems to foreshadow this threat, as illustrated by Mr. Summers, who is in charge of the lottery, and his associate Mr. Graves. In this short story, the description makes Mr. Summers seem to be a respected member of the local society. He organizes and coordinates various social events. 

Mr. Summers has a modest character, but a hazardous one. As Jackson (282) says, “Mr. Summers was very good at all this ….. with one hand carelessly resting on the black box, he seemed very proper and important as he talked interminably to Mr. Graves and the Martins.” These practices may seem ordinary regarding village norms. For the reader, they represent a high degree of violation of human rights.

The principal characters used in the short story represent the atmosphere of the actual events. For example, the name “Summers” symbolizes the essential theme of the plot and the eventual outcome of the entire events (Marshall 3).

Additionally, the name of Mr. Summers’ friend, Mr. Graves, his assistant in lottery events, symbolizes the wickedness of ordinary villagers. So, the author uses such names to portray the idea of such absurdity.

In the short story, the lottery represents the weak and deceitful nature of humans. This act has been a practice for many years in this area. And yet, no one seems to doubt its detrimental effect on the local population. “There’s always been a lottery, and no one has been nervous about it…everyone goes on with it…” This excerpt shows how hypocritical the people in the village have become.

According to Hyman (35), despite depriving humans of their rights for life, no one had expressed fear or disgust at the act. The kind of evil and lack of morality portrayed goes beyond human brutality. Everything is done in a calm and consensual manner.

Marshall (3) suggests, such an atmosphere is a real reflection of how people are profoundly hypocritic and wicked. It concerns even Mrs. Hutchinson, who comes out to protest and rebel against the lottery. Unsurprisingly, she becomes the victim of the lottery act the same day she protested against it. Mrs. Hutchinson does not speak against the mistreatment of her fellow villagers before she is chosen to be sacrificed (Hyman 46). Such an event shows that all acts of defiance against the lottery are quickly hindered. Everything goes on as usual.

From our analysis of The Lottery, we can see the prominent theme. A person starts to oppose those “cultural norms” and laws only when they hurt them personally. In particular, despite our seemingly friendly appearance, Mrs. Hutchinson’s death marks the continuity of the eternal evil nature of humankind.

Conclusion

To conclude The Lottery literary analysis, the unfolding of the short story reflects how humans mistreat each other. Presumably, it happens in compliance with cultural beliefs and practices. The lottery act undermines human nature. So, the individuals seem to condone such evils with less consideration for their negative impacts.

At the end of the story, the “light of hope” for liberalization represented by Mrs. Hutchinson dies. That proves the existence of a corrupt and evil nature of man. Generally speaking, the short story describes the social malpractices that society conducts to each other as if they were ordinary occurrences.

References

  1. Hyman, Stanley. The Presentation of Evil in “The Lottery”. 2000, New Jersey: Bantam Publishing Co.
  2. Jackson, Shirley. The Lottery. 1948, New York: McGraw-Hill Publishers.
  3. Marshall, Garry. Analysis of “The Lottery” a Short Story by Shirley Jackson. 2003, New York: Lori Voth Publishers.

FAQ

❓ What is the goal of The Lottery by Shirley Jackson literary analysis?

The goal of The Lottery literary analysis essay is to characterize methods and the setting. But the event of the story should not be the only focus. Another critical objective is analyzing the story in a broader context of human psychology.

❓ How do you write a literary analysis essay on The Lottery?

Start The Lottery critical analysis by describing the book and the author’s background stories. Make sure to include every prominent character in your essay, as well as their personality traits and behaviors. Finish your literary analysis of The Lottery by concluding the main idea behind the story.

❓ What was Shirley Jackson's message in The Lottery?

Shirley Jackson tries to provide us with some light on the danger of following traditions blindly. In the book, the entire village meets on the town square to compete in the annual lottery of death. Nobody questions its existence, no matter how abusive and cruel it is.

❓ Why was Mrs. Hutchinson late for the lottery?

Tessie Hutchinson arrives late to the lottery because she forgot what day it was. Other villagers cannot help but notice it and come to quick conclusions. They immediately start thinking of her as someone different and even threatening. Even her husband, Bill Hutchinson, accepts her fate.

❓ What do the stones symbolize in The Lottery?

In The Lottery, the stones symbolize the execution method depicted in the Bible. There, people used the same things to execute the perpetrators of law and tradition. The stones show the violent capabilities of the crowd that is capable of such horrible actions.