The Lottery and Other Stories
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.
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 Lottery” Literary Analysis Analytical Essay
The short story “The Lottery” by Shirley Jackson reveals the underlying many evils committed by mankind. It should be noted that, this story takes place in a remote village setting, where the people are dominated by traditional cultures and practices.
Basically, ‘lottery’ in this story is a yearly occasion in which an individual in the town is chosen at random to be stoned by hi/her allies and family members. Notably, the atmosphere created by Jackson in presentation of the sureness and the norm of the practice of lottery within the village is quite convincing that, this practice was readily welcomed.
The ultimate fate of all the practices presented in this short story is marked by ‘death’, perceived as redeemer for many evils people commit against each other. This paper presents the tools of characterization and the setting of the short story “The Lottery”
One of the most outstanding tools of characterization in this short-story is actions. Though this story is not dominated by many actions, characterization is well defined by the few actions the characters are involved.
For example, Mrs. Delacroix is brought out in the story as being highly determined and quick tempered lady. This is reflected by her action of selecting a large stone ‘so large that she had to pick it with two hands in anger of ….” (Shirley 76).
More so, the unfolding of events in this short story seems as if Jackson is revealing the hypocrisy and evil-nature of human kind. As stated in the story, “They greeted one another and exchanged bits of gossip…manhandling each other without a flinch of pity…” (Shirley 281). Though the reader of this short story expects the practice of lottery to be beneficial to the villagers in a way, nothing of worth is gained form such practiced of lottery.
It should be noted keenly that, this short story portrays extreme evil committed in just ordinary manner, which implies an underlying evil of man. This quite evident in the way such evils presented in this short story are happening in just friendly atmosphere, reflecting the camouflaging nature of humans.
Despite the short story being not insidious until near its end, the author seems to be foreshadowing this notion of deadliness as brought out through M. Summers, who is in charge of lottery, and his colleague Mr. Graves. The picture brought out of Mr. Summers in this short story makes him seem a respected man as he coordinates various social activities.
This humble nature of Mr. Summers, yet a very dangerous one is reported by Shirley (282) that, “Mr. Summers was very good at all this ….. with one hand resting carelessly on the black box, he seemed very proper and important as he talked interminably to Mr. Graves and the Martins”. Such activities may seem normal with regard to the village norms, but they reflect high degree of human rights violation.
The main characters used in this short story depict the mood of the actual events in this short story. For instance, the name ‘Summers’ symbolizes the fundamental theme of the story, and ultimate outcome of the entire events (Marshall 3).
Further, the name of Mr. Summer’s colleague, Mr. Graves, who happens to be his assistant in activities of lottery, prefigures iniquity of ordinary people. Basically, imagery is clearly brought out in this short story by having the author give the names of the main characters portray the entire theme.
Together with hypocrisy, ‘lottery’ in this short story presents the weak nature of human nature. Considering that this act of lottery had been a routine in this village for many years, no one seems to question its negative impacts in the general human welfare.
As reflected in Shirley (282), “There’s always been a lottery and no one has been nervous about it…everyone goes on with it…” reveals how hypocritical the people in the village were.
According to Hyman (35) no one had expressed fear of disgust of the act, despite it being depriving human nature of their human rights for survival. The kind of evil and malevolence presented in this short story goes beyond human violence since all is done calmly and in unity.
As Marshall (3) suggests, the use of protagonism in this short story is a real reflection of how people are deeply engraved in hypocrisy and wickedness. Ironically, Mrs. Hutchinson, who emerges to protest and rebel against lottery, emerges as the victim of the act of lottery the day she was going to protest against it.
This retracts all acts of rebellion against the act of lottery, and everything goes on as usual. Though before drawing from her fellow women to face her fate she seems happy, Mrs. Hutchison she is brought out to be happy to leave to see the way her fellow humans are mistreated (Hyman 46).
This reveals the way oppressive norms and cultures deem hopes of liberalization from such oppressive cultures. Particularly, the death of Mrs. Hutchison marks the continuity of evil nature of human kind eternally, despite their facial appearance seeming friendly.
Generally, the unfolding of the short story reflects the way humans mistreat each other, presumably in conformation to cultural beliefs and practices. Since the act of lottery as presented in this short story seems to undermine human nature, people seem to condone such evils with less regard on their negative impacts.
As the story ends, the ‘light of hope’ for liberalization, Mrs. Hutchison, dies which implies the unending nature of human wicked nature and evil. Generally, the short story reflects the societal malpractices committed by mankind to each other, as though they are ordinary events.
Hyman, Stanley. The Presentation of Evil in “The Lottery”. New Jersey: Bantam Publishing Co., 2000.
Marshall, Garry. Analysis of “The Lottery” a Short Story by Shirley Jackson. New York: Lori Voth Publishers, 2003.
Shirley, Jackson. The Lottery. New York: McGraw-Hill Publishers, 1948.
Further Study: FAQ
? Who are The Lottery characters?
The most prominent characters of The Lottery are Tessie Hutchinson, Bill Hutchinson, Mr. Joe Summers, and Mr. Harry Graves. There are also Mrs. Delacroix, Mrs. Dunbar, Old Man Warner, and other secondary characters.
? What is the main theme of The Lottery?
The main theme in The Lottery is the vulnerability of the individual. The importance of questioning tradition plays a crucial role in the story as we follow Tessie Hutchinson’s journey.
? What are the two symbols in The Lottery?
In Shirley Jackson’s The Lottery, the two main symbols are the black box and the stones. The box indicates the connection to the origins of the lottery, though it’s evidently fading. The stones as the execution tools refer to the Bible and show the crowd’s cruelty.
? What is the meaning behind the story The Lottery?
The meaning behind the story is the danger of blindly following traditions. In The Lottery, the entire community gathers in the town square to take part in the annual lottery. No one questions it, no matter how violent and cruel it is.
Сompare and Сontrast: the Lottery and the Rocking Horse Winner
There are many elements of literary devices, imagery, style, and tone that contribute to the creation of the overall spirit of works in literature. They shape the reader’s perception of the plot, the main characters, and the overall message of the literary piece. These elements are often used in their direct meaning, thus enforcing a direct effect on the reader; however, there also are cases when they are used controversially, making the impression from the read piece stronger and even more emphatic. This paper’s main goal is to compare and contrast “The Lottery” and “The Rocking Horse Winner” and examines themes, characters, settings, and literary devices of the two stories.
Stories’ Tones and Plots
The tone of the work is significant in its terms as well because it creates the fleur of seriousness, light-mindedness, sadness or cheerfulness, introducing the reader to the world of the literary work, and even making him or her the participant of events. Symbols are the fruitful addition to the literary stylistic devices, since they add the third dimension of the plot and message, showing what cannot be expressed by words, and making the work lively.
All these issues have found their direct and at times, sophisticated realization in the works of Shirley Jackson and D.H. Lawrence. These two works are remarkable from the perspective of investigating the impact of tone, style, and symbol in a literary work. Thus, for example, the topic of the question of tone becomes extremely topical in Jackson’s work “The Lottery” that in itself represents a contradiction, controversy, and conflict.
The opening lines of the short story presuppose some cheerful scenario, some picturesque place, and a holiday-suggesting lexicon: “The morning of June 27th was clear and sunny, with the fresh-summer day; the flowers were blossoming profusely and the grass was richly green” (Jackson, 1949, p. 5). The beginning clearly suggests a lovely landscape, a beautiful day, and a similarly pleasant continuation of the plot.
Nonetheless, the short story’s essence, plot, and message are quite different from the beginning, setting people in a positive tone and perceiving the lottery as something rewarding and exciting for the villagers. The only fact that the ritual is of vital importance does not cause any doubts since there is much attention to every detail, to every participant of the events, to the black box, and the responsibilities of the lottery’s chairman as well.
The meaning of being the chosen, picking the black spot from the box, is not evident until the end of the work, though the tone comes to its correct form by the end of the short story. It changes rapidly after the choice falls on Mr. Hutchinson, and the fierce protection he gets from his wife, Tessie, the ultimate victim of the medieval, bloody tradition.
Irony in the Stories
In Lawrence’s story, “The Rocking Horse Winner,” the tone is plain and unhappy. Moreover, the story is much more consistent in terms of plot, and style. However, though the mood of the story is quite pessimistic, gloomy, depressing, with short sentences and broken phrases, there is much irony at the beginning of the work. The irony shows that the author himself does not consider the hardships faced by the family so hard and awful as they are depicted. From his point of view, the problems are over-exaggerated.This irony may be quite well felt in the phrases such as:
“…there must be more money. The father, who was always very handsome and expensive in his tastes, seemed as if he never would be able to do anything worth doing. And the mother, who ha a great belief in herself, did not succeed any better, and her tastes were just as expensive” (Lawrence, 1926, p. 552).
The irony is striking – people who cannot find any money to let their children study well can afford expensive tastes, and at the same time, they call themselves “the poor members of the family” (Lawrence, 1926, p. 553). They buy expensive toys for their children, use the services of a taxi, but they remain poor because they do not live up to their wishes and ambitions.
The talk of the mother with her son Paul is also quite ironic, though it also contains some symbolism of the concept of luck. Their family traditionally ties luck with money, but Paul dies a young and rich person, which cannot be considered luck at all. Hence, the crisis of belief, understanding, and morale in the family is shown through an ironic representation of their so-called ‘poverty’ and the dramatic effect of that perception imposed on Paul at an early age.
The irony is also present in “The Lottery,” though it is quite far from being ironic in its complete sense. The talk between Old Man Warner and Mr. Adams is very ironic – Old Man Warner compares the refusal from the lottery in other towns to degradation – “they’ll be wanting to back to living in caves, nobody work anymore” (Jackson, 1949, p. 14).
However, it is clear that the ritual is a remnant of the dark, medieval, illiterate, cruel, nearly pagan times when people believed that killing one chosen person was useful for their harvest – “Lottery in June, corn be heavy soon” (Jackson, 1949, p. 14). There are multiple examples of imagery in “The Lottery,” meanwhile “The Rocking Horse Winner” abounds with metaphors.
Symbolism in the Stories
Contrasting the works according to their style and tone, one should surely note that they can also be compared concerning the symbolism in works; besides the proverb about the good harvest, the symbol of the black box is powerful in Jackson’s story, and the symbol of the rocking horse also occupies the central place in the work “The Rocking Horse Winner”.
It is evident that the mistaken perception of luck compared directly with money leads to further misconceptions, and the boy draws a parallel between his luck and the rocking horse. Hence, these symbols distinguish both works and allow a reliable comparison between them. From this comparison essay, symbolism in “The Rocking Horse Winner” and “The Lottery” is evident.
As it comes from the present comparison and contrast, the stylistic devices such as tone and style are vastly used by writers to enhance the impact on the reader, to create the spirit of the unexpected, to surprise him or her, and to make the work highly emphatic.
Symbols are also widely used equally to the characters of the stories, as they produce the impact on the characters only by their presence, by the profound meaning they have. If to compare and contrast “The Lottery” and “The Rocking Horse Winner,”it is possible to say that both authors have skillfully used the discussed techniques, though each of them in their own way.
Jackson, S. (1949). The Lottery. New York, NY: Farrar, Straus.
Lawrence, D. H. (1926). The Rocking Horse Winner. In D.H. Lawrence. Full Score: Twenty Tales by D.H. Lawrence (2008). Rockville, MD: Wildside Press LLC.
Literary Analysis of “The Lottery” by Shirley Jackson Essay
This essay contains a literary analysis of “The Lottery” by Shirley Jackson. It is known as one of the most horrible but still realistic short stories about human life, traditions, and interests inherent to society. From a Marxist perspective, it shows the objectification of social relations. Due to such unusual ideas and attention to violence, Jackson’s story undergoes considerable critics and analyses of many sophisticated writers and thinkers for a long time. For example, Bernice Murphy attempts to evaluate the domestic horror and causality that become the core of violence and the death of innocent people.
Main Themes of “The Lottery” by Shirley Jackson
According to this and many other critiques which analyze The Lottery, it is possible to admit that this story is full of symbolism that perfectly describes violence through everyday traditions and human imagination. There are numerous themes in “The Lottery” by Shirley Jackson, but the most evident are the ideas of violence, devotion to traditions, and fear to change something due to the concurrence of circumstances.
There are numerous essays on the symbolism of “The Lottery”. Many critics underline the idea that the work by Jackson is “hinged upon the symbolism of the notorious tale” (Murphy 5). It is not very difficult to discover how skillfully and maturely the author can demonstrate a perfect use of symbols to describe all those issues many people are afraid of but still cannot evade.
The evident symbol of the story is “a three-legged stool,” and the box that is “made with some pieces of the box that had preceded it” (Jackson 7). It is not only the symbol of something predictable or inevitable; it is also possible to recognize the idea of the trinity that usually has some religious roots. The Lottery itself symbolizes all that cruelty, violence, and death which exist in the world and cannot be avoided by ordinary people.
Though the Lottery is something “so-called normal and ordinary” (Murphy 248), this symbol represents some strange, terrible, and even horrible event that is unfair towards the citizens as it is stated by the main character Tessie Hutchinson when “the stone hit her on the side of the head” (Jackson 21).
Her sacrificed murder is not supported by the author as well as in some of the literary criticism. Her death is as stupid and unnecessary as many traditions and customs people like to follow and believe in. It causes bewilderment and questions. While the vast majority of people in the story cannot comprehend the necessity of this Lottery, they also cannot understand how miserable and cowardly their faith may be.
This violence, inhuman attitude to each other, and the belief that someone’s death may change and improve the current state of affairs and human future are the central ideas in the story. Human weakness is the fact that people cannot comprehend that they sacrifice their present and lives to have a chance for some future.
However, Jackson cries how unfair all this is through the words and emotions of Mrs. Hutchinson. However, even if “it isn’t fair, it isn’t fair” (Jackson 21), nobody can interfere in the situation even those who take your hand several minutes ago and say that everything will be okay.
This essay is a literary analysis of “The Lottery” by Shirley Jackson. It describes the story’s themes, interpretations, symbolism, and the main literary devices used by the author. In summary, The Lottery is a compelling and symbolic story about life and demands which have to be met by every people in a particular community. Among the variety of aspects described in the story, the reluctance of many people to reject cruel traditions and stop violence seems to be the most powerful. That’s because people are so absorbed in the idea of destroying violence that they become weak due to this power and its charms.
Jackson, Shirley. The Lottery. Mankato: The Creative Company, 2008.
Murphy, Bernice. Shirley Jackson: Essays on the Literary Legacy. Jefferson: McFarland, 2005.
“The Lottery” by Shirley Jackson Essay
The Lottery, a 1948 short story by Shirley Jackson, developed the themes of adherence to meaningless traditions, parenting and scapegoating. The broad aftermath and the negative responses of the readers who did not see the line between fiction and reality prove that the plot of the short story The Lottery by Jackson reflects the real problems of the modern community.
The plot of the story depicts a two hours lottery in a small town which finishes with a ritualistic death ceremony of stoning the unlucky participant as a sacrifice for ensuring a better harvest. At the beginning of the short story, the village children walk around collecting stones.
Mr. Summers who runs the lottery mixes the slips of paper in a black box, checks if everyone is in place and invites the heads of the families to draw the papers. When it clears out that Bill Hutchinson gets the unlucky slip, his wife Tessie starts protesting saying that her husband had not enough time for making his choice and the lottery is not fair.
Then, each member of the Hutchinsons family selects a slip of paper, and Tessie draws a slip with a black dot on it. Then, the villagers throw their stones into Tessie as a part of their death ritual. The fact that Tessie does not question the rite itself, but protests against the choice of her family emphasizes the idea of adherence to tradition as the major theme of the short story.
The rite is regarded as sacred and the idea of doubting it does not occur to anybody. When Mrs. Adams admits that the ritual of the lottery has already been abandoned in other villages, Warner as the eldest man in this community answers that giving up the rite can cause only troubles. “Next thing you know, they’ll be wanting to go back to living in caves” (Jackson 14).
Justifying the death ritual with the fact that the lottery has been always held in the village previously, Jackson discloses the theme of parenting when in one of the final episodes, a woman puts a stone into a child’s hand, fostering the tradition of violence and lotteries searching for the scapegoats to be stoned.
Regardless of the indignation raising in the readers’ minds, after decoding the symbolic meaning of the depicted lottery rite, everyone can recollect the situations from personal experience and world’s history in which modern the community selects a scapegoat to be discriminated.
For instance, the Nazis scapegoated the Jewish people, proclaiming them the reason of their troubles. Regardless of the current societal progress, modern people frequently scapegoat sexual and ethnical minorities, blaming them for the current moral decay and other social problems. The social phenomenon of scapegoating is rooted deep in public consciousness and tradition according to which the dominating social group looks for the opportunities of self-affirmation and shifting the responsibility for their problems on the others.
Though the ritual of stoning to death has certain historical basis, its meaning is rather symbolical and should not be taken literally by modern readers. The examples of scapegoating the others, including the limited rights of immigrants for finding a good job and the so-called glass ceiling due to which women receive lower salaries than men doing the same job and have lower chances for career promotion clearly represent the phenomenon of scapegoating in modern community.
In other words, appealing to the readers’ feelings, Shirley Jackson provides them with food for thought not limited to the indignation with the medieval rite, but extended to the reappraisal of their own attitudes and behavior.
The aftermath of The Lottery and the readers’ reaction to the short story proves that its plot impressed the readers recognizing it as the reflection of their lives.
After the short story was published in The New Yorker in 1948, the author received hundreds of hostile letters from the readers objecting to the brutal ending of the story. “As Jackson noted in her witty essay Biography of a Story, many of the letters she received that summer were from people who wanted to know whether these lotteries are held and whether they could go there and watch” (Murphy 104).
The debates concerning the actual location of these rites prove that the line between the fiction and reality as perceived by the readers appeared to be unclear. Hypocritically concealing their fear of becoming a scapegoat, not feeling empathy with Tessie Hutchinson who becomes a victim and not having moral strength and common sense to abandon the meaningless rite, the characters of the short story have a strong resemblance to modern readers.
“The contradictions of myth and ideology, the imaginary solutions to real problems, emerge in the specific rituals that ostensibly endorse the myth and ideology” (Hattenhauer 44). Thus, the plot of the short story can be regarded as the exaggerated reflection of the phenomenon of scapegoating as the imaginary solution to the real problems of the modern community.
The readers’ reaction to the short story The Lottery which became the classic of American literature proves that the depicted phenomenon of scapegoating appeals to their feelings as a topical problem of the modern community.
Hattenhauer, Darryl. Shirley Jackson’s American Gothic. State University of New York Press, 2003. Print.
Jackson, Shirley. The Lottery. Mankato: Creative Education, 2008. Print.
Murphy, Bernice. Shirley Jackson: Essays on the Literary Legacy. Jefferson: McFarland & Company Publishers. Print.
“The Lottery” and “Cleveland and It Hurts” Essay
“The Lottery” and “Cleveland and It Hurts”
I will make a comparison of the above two stories in the light of suspense, foreshadowing and flashback. I chose to use the above elements of literature because the two stories are heavily dependent on those elements.
The Lottery examines the dark side of a human being, the results of one’s ritualized doings, as well as hidden and probable cruel nature of a person.
The story by Swanson Cleveland and It Hurts is full of remorse and disappointment which the main characters experience. Swanson effectively used flashback to tell his story and to create suspension. Swanson did not start his story in a conventional manner, “when your wife is killed by hit-and-run you get on an Amtrack and head West” (Swanson 1).
From the very first line, the suspense is created. It helps the reader to immediately get interested about the way the incident took place. The author depicts some distant past to show the kind of life that he had with his wife. It is not very hard to realize that the narrator is thoughtful.
It is likely that the couple was newly married because the narrator goes in details about their wedding ceremony but he fails to mention anything about their children. Within the same first line of the story, I find more suspense in the reasoning of the narrator – why did he head west after his wife had died? what were the reasons for that? The author uses flashback to reveal more about the life they had with his wife before she passed away.
On the other hand, the story Lottery used foreshadowing to reveal the flow of events in the story. This is in contrast to the story by Swanson which used flashback to build the story backwards. For instance, the piling of the stones by the children at the beginning of the story was a foreshadowing of the stoning which was to take place at the end of the story.
Though the piling of the stones does not raise any suspicion for the readers, a keen reader can easily point out the purpose of the stones when the crowd at the end of the story gets nervous. I found it quite suspending that the author was not giving enough information about the lottery at the beginning of the narration. The reader is given very scanty information about the lottery. The author only reveals this information at the very end of the story, therefore, effectively keeping a reader guessing what is going to happen (Jackson 1).
“Things Fall Apart” and “Death of a Salesman”
For the second part of this essay I chose the two stories above so that I could analyze their main characters. Okonkwo is the main character in Things Fall Apart and Willy Loman holds the story together in Death of a Salesman. I found an amazing resemblance between Okonkwo and Wily Loman; actually, the titles of the books can be exchanged –both characters have similar lives and both of them die in the end.
Another resemblance that caught my attention is the determination that both character wanted to succeed in life by means of improving their financial position. Willy went to extreme ends in order to make a fortune for Biff – the fortune that would make it possible for Biff to live the American dream. (Miller 1).
What about our man Okonwko? I choose to call him a gladiator since he was extremely strong, worked all day round and never showed weakness. He hated laziness and weakness with passion and he could even kill to prove he was a man: “Dazed with fear, Okonkwo drew his matchet and cut him down. He was afraid of being thought weak” (Chinua 43). Okonkwo believed that it was laziness and weakness that made his father Unoka a disgrace of the village.
Okonkwo was determined to reverse this image by ensuring that he became the most successful man in his region which consisted of nine villages. Okonkwo and Willy are two characters in different worlds who struggled against all odds to ensure that they gained respect from the society, and above all that they got more than wealth. The passion to be prosperous motivated both Willy and Okonkwo.
There is one contrasting thing which comes out clearly. In his lifetime Okonkwo was able to command huge respect from the society because of his achievement. There are many achievements that Okonkwo achieved unlike Willy who managed to know one fact that the product that he sold as a salesman was himself.
As Things Fall Apart and Death of a Salesman came to their ending, the main characters of the two stories, Okonkwo and Willy, decide to behave similarly. Being disappointed by their lives, they made up their mind to end their tragic living by committing suicides since they did not manage to achieve things they strived for all their lives.
Chinua, Achebe. Things Fall Apart. London, UK: Heinemann, 1996. Print.
Jackson, Shirley. The Lottery. New York, NY: Creative Company, 2008. Print.
Miller, Arthur. Death of a salesman: play in two acts. New York, NY: Dramatists Play Services, 1980. Print.
Swanson, Thea. Cleveland and It Hurts. New York, NY: Pacific Ocean, 2006. Print.
The Lottery by Shirley Jackson Essay
In the movie entitled The Day the Earth Stood Still the protagonist said that people change when faced with a life and death situation. There is truth to this statement because human beings will do everything to survive. In the face of danger the normal reaction is to flee or fight the source of threat.
Everything must be done for the sake of safety and security. The change in demeanor and even change in character is evident in many cases. One good example of a character that manifested change in the face of danger is the character that can be found in Shirley Jackson’s The Lottery.
The person who manifested change in demeanor and character was Mrs. Hutchinson. In the early part of the story, Mrs. Hutchinson was seen as friendly and carefree. She was a person that was not easily bothered by the things that were going on around her. In fact, she forgot about the lottery.
It was the most important event in the calendar because it meant the death of a member of the community. Furthermore, there is a degree of randomness in the process and therefore anyone can lose his or her life that day. But Mrs. Hutchinson completely forgot about the event, testifying to her carefree nature.
Aside from her carefree ways, Mrs. Hutchinson also projected friendliness. She was friendly to every person that she met along the way as she inched closer to her husband and to the platform where the proceedings were conducted. She knew everyone on a first-name basis and she was kind with her words. The people who knew her reciprocated the same feeling of respect and admiration. But when her name was chosen as the year’s victim and sacrifice, her character changed drastically.
When the arbiter called the name of Mrs. Hutchinson, the woman suddenly became combative. Her anger manifested through her words and she said things contrary to her character and standing in the community. She barked at the presiding officer Mr. Summers and said that he was not fair to her and her family. She said that Mr. Summers did not allow her son to choose the paper that he wanted to draw out from the lottery. In effect, she accused Mr. Summer of fraud.
It was important for the author to develop the character of Mrs. Hutchinson and gave her that particular identity. Her character was infused with kindness and generosity. These are traits that enabled Hutchinson’s character to stand out of the crowd. It contrasted her from the anxiety-ridden members of the community. More importantly it created an atmosphere of irony because she was the only person who did not believe that she would be sacrificed in the community’s religious altar.
The way she was characterized was important and critical because it amplified the impact of her reaction. Consider the effect of her statement when she accused Mr. Summers of breaking the rules. It can be argued that in normal conditions Mrs. Hutchinson will not even dare to look Mr. Summers in the eye.
The way she was characterized enabled the readers to believe that she was not capable of confronting Mr. Summers. Prior to the selection, Mrs. Hutchinson was seen as friendly and gentle. But after she was chosen her demeanor changed drastically and she became aggressive and combative.
The main explanation for the change was her desire to live. She knew that a piece of paper with a blackened center could spell the difference between life and death.
When Mrs. Hutchinson realized that there was no way out, she behaved like a cornered animal. She forgot about rules of etiquette and how to behave in a social setting. In a life and death situation, nothing else matters except safety and security. Mrs. Hutchinson need not worry about shame and social backlash because there was only one thing in her mind and that is to survive the ordeal.
The severity of the situation was made more evident because of the person in the center of the lottery and that was none other than Mr. Summers. He was highly respected in the community. He can be compared to the local judge of this city. The judge is a man of impeccable character. Therefore, the community gives him the power to make decisions even on matters that involve life and death. The same thing can be said by Mr. Summers’ position in the story.
It was contended earlier that people change when faced with a life and death situation. The explanation is easy to understand because human beings will do everything to survive. One of the best examples of this phenomenon is the character of Mrs. Hutchinson in the story entitled The Lottery.
Mrs. Hutchinson was projected with character traits that are related to kindness and generosity. But these were replaced with anger and slander when she desperately looked for a way out of her predicament. The author developed this particular character and infused her with these particular traits to highlight the tension and danger of the events that surrounded the lottery.
Arp, Thomas and Greg Johnson. Perrine’s Literature: Structure, Sound and Sense.
Boston, MA: Thomson Wadsworth, 2006. Print.
“The Lottery” by Shirley Jackson Critical Essay
The lottery is a short story that revolves around life in an agricultural village, whose setting is in summer; when flowers are blossoming and lawns exceedingly green. The village is composed of a population of about three hundred people, who know each other very well. The men are generally farmers, while the women are homemakers and school teachers.
The build up to the lottery draw, keeps the reader in suspense as to who is going to win the prize that is expected to be material in nature, but sadly enough turns out to be a death sentence; which begs the question as to why one would subscribe to such a lottery in the first place.
There is plenty of irony in the literature, that is observed where Bill Hutchinson, who won the lottery in the first round; by picking the paper with the black spot, is adjudged by his wife not to be the true winner, because of technical reasons. What is strikingly odd is that his wife Tessie, purports that Mr. Summers did not give her husband enough time to pick a paper of his choice, yet the whole village asserts that everyone was given the same amount of time, to pick a piece of paper from the box.
One wonders why a second draw should be made, to pick another winner yet a winner had been expressly identified. This is a deviation from the normal rules of a conventional lottery. The sentiments are echoed by old man Warner who intimates that, “It’s not the way it used to be” (Jackson 19).
Evidently, the annual lottery conducted by the village is not a typical lottery in the sense that, the person running the lottery is also a participant.
Mr. Summers and his assistant Mr. Graves, take part in the ill fated lottery too. Additionally, Mr. Summers is charged with the responsibility of preparing the lottery materials, giving him the opportunity for foul play, by carefully engineering a ploy to avert picking the condemned lottery ticket; since all the materials are kept under his care at the coal factory, a yearly routine he engages in.
There is some bit of satire in the literature, where we see the names of certain characters, coinciding with the events that are unfolding in the village. For instance, Mr. Summers’ name; who is the organizer of the lottery, coincides with the period that the aforesaid event is supposed to take place.
Furthermore, the annual event takes place on June 27th of every year, during summer time. Furthermore, his assistant’s name, Mr. Graves, coincides with the penultimate outcome of the lottery; the stoning of the winner, who in this case is Mrs. Hutchinson.
Due protocol was not followed in the second draw of the lottery, where Bill Hutchinson unfolded his lottery ticket, before his name was called out.
Ordinarily, one ought to unfold his or her lottery ticket, after the calling out of names by Mr. Summers. In the first draw, Bill was overly cautious when unfolding his ticket because he did not know the contents of the paper, but we can see clearly that he was beaming with confidence when unfolding his lottery ticket in the second draw; showing that he knew his fate with regard to the second draw.
This is clearly evidenced by his snatching of the lottery ticket from his condemned wife, Tessie. We can see from the first draw that Tessie is quite empathetic to Bill when he picks the winning ticket , and tries to defend her husband, by claiming that the process was not fair to him; because he wasn’t given ample time to pick a ticket of his choice. What is strange about this is that when Tessie gets into the same predicament, her husband does not come to her defense.
Seemingly, the village chooses to give the other rituals of the black box a wide berth; like the recital and the ritual salute, but is never oblivious of the grotesque act, of stoning the winner of the lottery to death. This goes to show that people are not interested in the credibility of the lottery process, but are solely interested in the aftermath of the entire process. “The original paraphernalia of the lottery had been lost long ago” (Jackson 7).
The lottery ritual had been stopped in other towns, which have a very large population; where people could take up to two days to conduct the lottery, yet this village with a marginal population, chooses to adhere to this yearly ritual that robs them of a member every year. Conventional wisdom would dictate that, a town with a small population quit this ritual before the one with a big population, because the population of the former has closer personal relations that the latter.
The oldest man in the village, Mr. Warner, has participated in the lottery on seventy seven occasions, but has never been unlucky enough to win the lottery (Murphy 105). Mathematically speaking, men start participating in the lottery at the age of sixteen, so if we do some bit of arithmetic; old Warner is ninety three years old. Why would one want to stone a ninety three year old man to death, yet he is in his sunset years and can die at any time?
Mrs. Delacroix, who is the first person Mrs. Hutchinson greets when she joins the villagers, is the one who picks the largest stone to kill her; yet they appear to be close friends in their earlier interaction (Bloom 27). One is left wondering, whether the farewell tap that Mrs. Hutchinson gave Mrs. Delacroix was a final one.
It is also questionable as to whether Mrs. Hutchinson had an intuition that something would go wrong, since she was the last person to join the crowd, and she was the one who won the condemned prize. Given that her intuition was right, she ought to have had second thoughts about taking part in the lottery.
In all odds, the villagers do not seem to be disturbed by what they do; they want the process to be hastened, so that they can complete their barbaric and sadistic mission, in time to have their noon dinner. To them, it is normal for one of their own to die after the lottery, for it to be successful. The title of the book itself is ironical, in the sense that; one expects that the winner will be given a reward in material terms, but what is observed in the end is worth being called a death game.
The lottery is a captivating short story, which elicits a lot of feelings of suspense to the reader. It starts with a very flowery description of a village and its residents, but ends tragically with the death of Mrs. Hutchinson; a village member with a very magnetic personality. The death is as a result of inhuman acts of the village members, who don not show any remorse for their misconduct.
This narrative makes one wonder where this kind of ritual originated from, and why the villagers still adhere to it; yet it is clear that everybody fears winning. Every village member is tense when unfolding a lottery ticket; as we see when Mr. Hutchinson, wins the first round of the lottery. All in all, it is a thoughtfully written piece of literature, which is academically invoking in all aspects.
Bloom, Harold. Comprehensive Research and Study Guide: Bloom’s Major, Short Story Writers. Broomall: Chelsea House Publishers, 2001. Print.
Jackson, Shirley. The Lottery. Mankato: Creative Education, 2008. Print.
Murphy, M., Bernice. Shirley Jackson’s Essays on the Literary Legacy. Jefferson: McFarland and Company, 2005. Print.
The Lottery by Shirley Jackson Report (Assessment)
Modern fictional scripts analysts stress on strict text interpretation. Assumptions and conjectures regarding a writer’s objectives or booklover’s reactions are unacceptable. The study is dominated by accurate structure and terminology analysis. A writer’s state of mind or how a script is received must not be used as a basis of study.
America has had prominent novelists over the years. Authors employed various writing styles to narrate their tales. Divergent writing techniques have raised most writers to fame. Fictional stories reviewers have had interest in works by an American author Shirley Jackson.
The Lottery story by Shirley Jackson received incredible interest from literary analysts. The detractors considered the Lottery script as a tale exclusively developed for fright. Conversely, scare was never Shirley’s intention when writing the story. In fact, she was recognized for creating stories concerning jovial people waiting for obscurity. Shirley’s objective was to illustrate humanity living in a bizarre situation (Stelly p. 1). The Lottery tale started in a relaxed daybreak. The day was intentionally selected by the author on the 27th of the sixth month.
A European traditional fete commemorated on the 21st had past and the American independence day of 4th July was further ahead. Therefore, Shirley’s chosen date appeared central to the two significant days. The European fete was occasioned by peculiar cultures while the American sovereignty date manifested liberty of persons. The fourteen days in between the two major occasions were cut in half by the 27th day. Shirley’s preferred date symbolized the disparity amid illogical evils and coherent equality.
Variances in the events signified a vital character in the Lottery story (Shields p. 4). The Lottery tale was centered on practices of societal brutality and injustice. Similarly, a midway date exemplified the dissimilarity between the two occasions. Furthermore, Shirley Jackson sought to draw attention to the existing events in Europe at that time. The date was used as a platform for the Lottery tale.
Shirley employed diverse writing styles in the Lottery story. She utilized imagery to characterize humanity as impure despite individual or group perceptions. The figurative approach assisted Shirley in her quest to explain humanity’s wickedness (Mccullough p. 1). Images represented what was intended and were applied in many areas of the tale. As a substitute to numerous terminologies, an image was used to represent expressions.
The lottery story was likewise based on sarcasm. Pleasant speeches and a grant to the game of chance were worth a celebratory affair of hope. However, in contrast, the tale ended in a brutal death (Voth p. 1). Irony in writing engaged readers and kept them in suspense. The technique allowed the author to twist her script to a desired direction. Satire in the tale made it lively and intriguing.
The lottery story had predictions in its writing. Shirley wrote about how youngsters gathered pebbles, residents picked grain and other incidences to point to the method used for victimization at the final end. Tessie Hutchinson was illogically chosen to be stoned (Shields p. 9). Mockery in the written script teased the reader into imagined intentions by the author. This technique kept the reader connected to events of the story. A mock pointed to the main event but it was not the experience.
Shirley maintained a specific subject matter throughout the Lottery story. She stressed on how the people of New England town held on to their culture. The town was not ready to alter anything not even the black box. The inhabitants preferred to maintain everything as they were (Blaylock p. 1). Retaining a definite idea in writing enhanced the flow of events. A reader always requires easy follow through when reading a story or document. Therefore, adherence to a particular topic is recommended in writing.
The Lottery was a short story but had enormous literature richness. Shirley applied professional writing skills that earned the Lottery story much approval. She sustained a uniform topic throughout the story and used good writing methods. Although the work was done in early 20th century, it continues as a reference point for most learners. Such precision and adherence to literature works ought to be encouraged in writings study.
Blaylock, Janet K. Sort Story Review. The Lottery by Shirley Jackson. British Literature. 2003. Web.
Mccullough, David. Lottery. a Breakdown of Jackson’s Symbolism. 2002. Web.
Shields, Patrick J. Arbitrary Condemnation and Sanctioned Violence in Shirley Jackson’s ‘The Lottery’. Contemporary Justice Review. Vol. 7, No. 4, pp. 411-419. 2004. Web.
Stelly, Timothy N. Shirley Jackson’s Short Masterpiece ‘The Lottery’. 2005. Web.
Voth, Lori. Analysis of ‘The Lottery’, a Short Story by Shirley Jackson. Associated Content. 2005. Web.
The Lottery and The Ambitious Guest Essay
One of the prominent themes, commonly explored in the works of literature, is a blindness of one’s fate. Apparently, it is being quite impossible for the people to proceed with indulging in a variety of cognitive activities without noticing that it is namely the factor of uncertainty, which defines the actual outcome of their even seemingly well-planned undertakings.
In its turn, the exposure of fate’s blindness is best achieved by the mean of authors utilizing the rhetorical element of irony. The reason for this is simple – by emphasizing ironic undertones of how characters go about addressing life’s challenges, authors increase the emotional appeal of their stories.
After all, just as it is being the case with many literary characters trying to adjust the surrounding reality to correlate with their deep-seated idealistic/irrational anxieties, the members of reading audiences are being naturally inclined to seek purposefulness to their existence.
However, given the fact that such their inclination stands in striking opposition to the actual essence of nature’s workings, it does not come as a particular surprise that eventually, most of them end up experiencing certain disillusionment, as the result of having realized the sheer erroneousness of their idealistic attitudes towards life.
Therefore, upon being exposed to a literary irony, concerned with accentuating fate’s blindness, readers are able to confirm the validity of their own experiences, in this respect. In its turn, this causes them to them to think of the stories/novels that feature the prominent elements of irony, as such that represent a particularly high literary value.
In this paper, I will aim to explore the legitimacy of an earlier suggestion in regards to how the deployment of a literary irony had helped Shirley Jackson and Nathaniel Hawthorne to emphasize the philosophic significance of their short stories The Lottery and The Ambitious Guest.
As people go through life, they tend to assess the qualitative essence of their experiences, concerned with addressing life’s challenges, in terms of ‘fairness vs. unfairness’.
Such their tendency, however, appears highly irrational, because it is often being the case that what people tend to consider the emanations of ‘fairness’, in regards to the lives of others, seem highly ‘unfair’, when assessed through the lenses of their own existential experiences. The validity of this idea can be well illustrated in relation to Jackson’s short story.
After all, even though that is it appears from this story’s context, the character of Mrs. Hutchinson used to participate in playing the lottery on numerous occasions, it never occurred to her that there was any unfairness to the stoning of lottery’s previous ‘winners’.
In fact, she even had a hard time while trying to conceal her excitement, in respect of having been provided with an opportunity to observe the spectacle of a next lottery’s ‘winner’ being put to death: “I looked out the window and the kids was gone, and then I remembered it was the twenty-seventh and came a-running” (Jackson).
Nevertheless, after having realized it is was her husband Bill who pulled out the ‘lucky’ chip this time, Mrs. Hutchinson started to exhibit the sings of uneasiness with what was about to follow. Yet, while being unable to prevent the stoning of her husband by the mean of appealing to participants’ sense of rationale, Mrs.
Hutchinson could not think of anything better to do but to accuse Mr. Summers of the fact that he did not allow Bill to take his time, while deciding on which wooden chip he should have picked.
To substantiate the legitimacy of her claim, Mrs. Hutchinson invoked the notion of fairness: “Tessie Hutchinson shouted to Mr. Summers. ‘You didn’t give him time enough to take any paper he wanted. I saw you.
It wasn’t fair!’” (Jackson). Given the fact that, as it was the case with Mrs. Hutchinson, village residents were just as concerned with ensuring ‘fairness’, as their lives’ foremost prerogative, they did allow lottery’s redraw. As a result, Mrs. Hutchinson ended up pulling out the ‘lucky’ chip herself.
Nevertheless, despite the fact that this time she did not have any formal excuses to complain about the ‘unfairness’, Mrs. Hutchinson proceeded with referring to her ‘luck’ with picking out the designated chip as being utterly unfair: “’It isn’t fair,’ she said… ‘It isn’t fair, it isn’t right,’ Mrs. Hutchinson screamed” (Jackson).
It is needles to mention, of course, that there is a prominently defined irony to Jackson story’s conclusion. After all, nobody forced Mr. Hutchinson to start making public appeals to ‘fairness’.
Therefore, it is utterly ironic that, while referring to her rather acute sense of ‘fairness’, as the driving motivation behind her demand for lottery’s redraw, Mrs. Hutchinson had in fact brought about her own demise.
In its turn, this point out to the full validity of a highly ironic saying – ‘be careful about what you are wishing for’. Apparently, the actual tragedy of one’s existence is not being concerned with the fact that, as time goes on, he or she is having a hard time, while trying to assure ‘fate’s smiling’, but with the fact that very often such ‘fate’s smiling’ appears to have strongly defined negative connotations to it.
Essentially the same argument can be utilized within the context of discussing the significance of a literary irony in Hawthorne’s story. As it appears from this particular story, the character of young traveler never ceased experiencing an acute sensation that he was destined for something great.
Moreover, traveler’s greatness-related anxieties were not as much concerned with his intention to become a socially prominent individual in physical life, as much as they were concerned with his desire to attain post-mortem fame: “The secret of the young man’s character was a high and abstracted ambition. He could have borne to live an undistinguished life, but not to be forgotten in the grave” (Hawthorne).
Apparently, the traveler was endowed with a so-called ‘Faustian’ psyche, the workings of which are being concerned with an affiliated individual’s subconscious and highly idealistic desire to live for something greater than simply the satisfaction its animalistic instincts, as it is being usually the case with people endowed with a so-called ‘Apollonian’ mentality.
Nevertheless, ‘Faustians’ are being just as subjected to the objective laws of nature as ‘Apollonians’ are. Given the fact that the principle of uncertainty (Heisenberg’s principle) defines the very essence of how natural laws affect the surrounding reality, it does not come as a particular surprise that idealistically minded people’s strive to ensure the ‘purposefulness’ of their lives often falls short of its objectives.
After all, it is specifically their exposure/non-exposure to purely accidental events, which define these people’s actual chances to attain social prominence – whatever the emotionally uncomfortable such a suggestion may sound.
Therefore, the novel’s scene in which traveler dies during the course of an avalanche (which presupposes that his grave will forever remain anonymous), cannot be referred to as anything but highly ironic.
It is not only that the cottage where traveler had stopped for the night was left untouched by the avalanche: “Down came the whole side of the mountain, in a cataract of ruin.
Just before it reached the house, the stream broke into two branches – shivered not a window there, but overwhelmed the whole vicinity” (Hawthorne), which means that the traveler would have survived, had he stayed inside, but that contrary to traveler’s expectation, his death proved essentially futile.
Thus, just as it is being the case with highly ironic sounding of Jackson novel’s conclusion, the highly ironic conclusion of Hawthorne’s novel was meant to emphasize fate’s blindness.
I believe that the provided earlier line of argumentation, in regards to what should be considered the significance of both stories’ clearly ironic sounding, is being fully consistent with paper’s initial thesis.
By utilizing the rhetorical element of irony, Jackson and Hawthorne were able to increase the emotional appeal of their stories.
Even though that the settings of both stories imply the apparent incompatibility between earlier discussed characters’ existential modes, these stories’ reading does advance the idea that, regardless of what happened to be the particulars of people’s cultural or social affiliation, they are being equally subjected to the strikes of a blind fate.
Therefore, even though that formally speaking, both stories can be best described as being rather depressing, they nevertheless emanate a strong humanist spirit. After all, these stories do encourage readers to consider the possibility that there is no ‘fairness’ to be found in life – hence, increasing their chances to adopt a proper attitude, when it comes to tackling life’s inconsistencies.
Hawthorne, Nathaniel. The Ambitious Guest. Classic Reader, 2010. Web.
Jackson, Shirley. The Lottery. American Literature, 2003. Web.