Presentation on theme: "“The Lottery” by Shirley Jackson. Shirley Jackson Shirley Jackson (December 14, 1919 - August 8, 1965) was an American author who wrote short stories."— Presentation transcript:
“The Lottery” by Shirley Jackson
Shirley Jackson Shirley Jackson (December 14, August 8, 1965) was an American author who wrote short stories and novels. Her most famous work is her short story "The Lottery," which combines a bucolic small- town-America setting with a horrific shock ending. The tone of most of her works is odd and macabre, with an impending sense of doom, often framed by very ordinary settings and characters.
Outcast and Social Victim Shirley Jackson’s own life has serious effects on her writings, especially on “The Lottery.” Her early life was not a peaceful one. She preferred to stay in her room and write poetry rather than go outside and play with other children. Her college life was not great either because she dropped out and was put in a mental institute. After she was released, her married life started. Jackson married in 1940 to Stanley Edgar Hyman, a Jewish intellectual who encouraged her rebellion. He also encouraged her to become a severe critic who smoked too much, ate too much, and used drugs. In “The Lottery,” a woman –Ms. Hutchinson- finally attempts to rebel against the seemingly normal stoning when she is chosen to be stoned. This may be connected to Jackson’s rebellion against her parents encouraged by her husband. The woman’s rebellion in The Lottery, ends in her death. This could be related with Jackson’s involvement with drugs, smoking, and food due to her encouraging husband.
Vermont and a Split Personality Jackson must’ve been the quintessential outcast in the town. Married to a Jew, already having been committed to a mental institution, Jackson would have been easily seen as “the other.” It was Jackson's fate, as a faculty wife and an eccentric newcomer in a staid, insular village, to absorb the reflexive anti-semitism and anti-intellectualism felt by the townspeople toward the college. Jackson was in many senses already two people when she arrived in Vermont. One was a turgid, fearful ugly-duckling, permanently cowed by the severity of her upbringing by a suburban mother obsessed with appearances. This half of Jackson was a character she brought brilliantly to life in her stories and novels from the beginning: the shy girl, whose identity slips all too easily from its foundations. The other half of Jackson was the expulsive iconoclast, brought out of her shell by marriage to Hyman — himself a garrulous egoist very much in the tradition of Jewish '50's New York intellectuals — and by the visceral shock of mothering a quartet of noisy, demanding babies. This second Shirley Jackson dedicated herself to rejecting her mother's sense of propriety, drank and smoked and fed to buttery excess — directly to blame for her and her husband's early deaths — dabbled in magic and voodoo, and interfered loudly when she thought the provincial Vermont schools were doing an injustice to her talented children. This was the Shirley Jackson that the town feared, resented and, depending on whose version you believe, occasionally persecuted.
Symbols The black box The color black The stones The officials: Mr. Summers, Mr. Graves Tessie Hutchinson Mrs. Delacroix Mr. Warner (giving warning) Mr. Adams The black dot Destroyed wood Advent of summer (June) Agrarian village Coal
Leitmotif In order to bring together the symbols into a cohesive whole, we need some means of explicating (to clarify the meaning of or explain) the story. One means to do this is by first recognizing that there is a Biblical allusion to the story of Jesus and the adulterous woman. However, in Jackson’s version, there is no hand of mercy to stay the stones.
Peter Kosenko’s Reading The village is a blank slate (no name, no time, no place) on which we can project ourselves. No wonder that this story received more mail than any other New Yorker story published to date. The story on one level is about the common practice of scapegoating.
Capitalism But on another level, it’s about the economic productivity of this village and how to keep that productivity in place Thus, Kosenko argues, we need to look at the economic hierarchy of the village, starting from the wealthiest and going down to the workers and their wives and children.
Hierarchy Mr Summer’s is the wealthiest: he owns the coal mine in town. He also more “time and energy to devote to civic activities than others.” Then comes Mr. Graves, its postmaster. Then Mr. Martin, the only grocer in town. The box is stored in their offices; also, the slips are prepared the night before the lottery in Mr. Summer’s office. There exists a distinct possibility that the lottery is fixed.
More Hierarchy Next down one might consider Old Man Warner to be an informal authority or patriarch. He’s been through the lottery 77 times. Then comes working males, such as Mr. Adams, Mr Hutchinson. They are closely followed by their sons (who draw in their fathers’ absence). Then come women. Based on the women’s shabby clothing and the fact of how the boy’s respond (or not) to their mothers’ authority, one can easily see the women as largely powerless.
More Hierarchy Last of all come those who cannot work, such as Mr. Dunbar (who has a broken leg) or those families with a dead father. And at the very bottom are those who rebel or question the system, such as Tessie. Note he she tells her husband “to go up there” to draw the lottery ticket. Kosenko makes a great point when he notes that those most marginalized are those most familiar with the terror of the lottery; thus, when the slip is drawn, the women immediately speculate on who has been chosen.
Another Possibility: Tradition In part, the story is a reaction against blindly following such traditions as scapegoating. Much of the ceremony and artifacts of the lottery have been lost, such as the salute, wooden ballots, etc. Also, there is a hint in what Old Man Warner says (“Lottery in June, corn be heavy soon.”) that the lottery once served as a blood sacrifice to produce good crops, but that connection seems to have been forgotten.
Historical Context We also have to remember that Jackson wrote this story following WWII, in which Jews had been scapegoated by the Nazis. This period was almost unimaginable to us. Approximately 60 million people died in WWII, and the war provoked incredible violence from a variety of nations.
Work Ethic Clearly one of the traditions of the village is the work ethic. Throughout the lottery, there is emphasis given on getting back to work quickly. Men derive their status from work; women lack status in raising children and lacking jobs.