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The Lottery Shirley Jackson

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1 The Lottery Shirley Jackson
The author Born in San Francisco in 1916 Jackson intended, as “a sensitive and faithful anatomy of our times, fitting symbols for our distressing world of the concentration camp and the Bomb”, to mirror humanity’s Cold War-era fears. Jackson may even have taken pleasure in the subversive impact of her work, as evidenced by Hyman’s statement that she “was always proud that the Union of South Africa banned ‘The Lottery,’ and she felt that they at least understood the story”.

2 The Lottery Shirley Jackson
The author “Explaining just what I had hoped the story to say is very difficult. I suppose, I hoped, by setting a particularly brutal ancient rite in the present and in my own village to shock the story's readers with a graphic dramatization of the pointless violence and general inhumanity in their own lives.”

3 The Lottery Shirley Jackson
Background First published in the June 26, 1948, issue of The New Yorker. Written the same month it was published, it is ranked today as “one of the most famous short stories in the history of American literature”. It has been described as “a chilling tale of conformity gone mad.” The story was banned in the Union of South Africa. Since then, it has been accepted as a classic American short story, subject to critical interpretations and media adaptations.

4 The Lottery Shirley Jackson
Setting It takes place on the morning of June 27th, a sunny and pleasant summer day, in the village square of a town of about three hundred people. The setting is described as tranquil and peaceful, with children playing and adults talking about everyday concerns. This seemingly normal and happy setting contrasts greatly with the brutal reality of the lottery. Few clues are given to a specific time and place in the story, a technique used to emphasize the fact that such brutality can take place in any time or in any place.

5 The Lottery Shirley Jackson
Major Characters Bobby Martin: Boy who loads his pockets with stones that he will use after townspeople draw lottery numbers. He also helps build a pile of stones Baxter Martin: Older brother of Bobby Martin Harry Jones: Boy who joins Bobby Martin in building the pile of stones Dickie Delacroix: Boy who joins Bobby Martin and Harry Jones in building the pile of stones

6 The Lottery Shirley Jackson
Major Characters Mr. Martin: Bobby Martin's father. He operates a grocery store Mrs. Martin: Wife of Mr. Martin Joe Summers: Coal dealer who conducts the lottery. He has no children Mr. Summers's Wife: Shrewish woman Mr. Graves: Postmaster. He assists Mr. Summers Mrs. Graves: Wife of the postmaster

7 The Lottery Shirley Jackson
Major Characters Old Man Warner: Oldest man in town Tessie Hutchinson: Woman who arrives late for the lottery Bill Hutchinson: Husband of Mrs. Hutchinson Bill Jr., Nancy, Little Dave: Children of Mr. and Mrs. Hutchinson School Friends of Nancy Hutchinson

8 The Lottery Shirley Jackson
Themes The reluctance of people to reject outdated traditions, ideas, rules, laws, and practices Society wrongfully designates scapegoats to bear the sins of the community The wickedness of ordinary people can be just as horrifying as the heinous crime of a serial killer or a sadistic head of state The unexamined life is not worth living Following the crowd can have disastrous consequences

9 The Lottery Shirley Jackson
Symbols The lottery: Barbaric tradition or practice; any foolhardy tradition that a community refuses to give up; the risks of daily living The black box: Evil or death, suggested by the color of the box; outdated tradition

10 The Lottery Shirley Jackson
Symbols Boys gathering stones and pebbles: Indoctrination or brainwashing that is passed on from one generation to the next Old Man Warner: Anyone who warns others not to change; hidebound traditionalist; Luddite; obstructionist Mr. Summers: The appearance of normalcy and cheerfulness hiding evil and corruption Bill and Davy Hutchinson: Betrayers

11 The Lottery Shirley Jackson
Irony The word lottery suggests that the villagers are going to draw for a prize. The sunny day suggests that a happy event is about to take place. When Old Man Warner hears that the north village is considering ending the lottery, he says, “Next thing you know, they’ll be wanting to go back to living in caves.” (The lottery is as savage and barbaric a ritual as any practiced by cave dwellers.)

12 The Lottery Shirley Jackson
Dramatizations 1951 radio version 1969 film: Larry Yust’s short film, The Lottery (1969), produced as part of Encyclopædia Britannica’s “Short Story Showcase” series, was ranked by the Academic Film Archive “as one of the two bestselling educational films ever.” 1996 TV film: Anthony Spinner’s feature-length TV film, The Lottery, which premiered September 29, 1996, on NBC, is a sequel loosely based on the original Shirley Jackson story.

13 The Lottery Shirley Jackson
Further readings Novels The Haunting of Hill House (1959) We Have Always Lived in the Castle (1962) Short stories “After You, My Dear Alphonse” (1943) “Charles” (1948) “The Witch” (1949)


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