Summary of "The Lottery" by Shirley Jackson
Tessie Hutchinson argues about how the lottery isn't fair and how her husband didn't have enough time to pick a piece of paper. All of the other characters in this story all play a significant role by just saying a few words and by helping throw the stones at Tessie.
It is sad and definitely hypocritical, but it happens all the time. And I think Shirley Jackson makes this point without having to say a word about it. It is the thousands of readers who replied to “The Lottery”, in disapproval and horror that blindly proved Jackson’s theories valid and unknowingly portrayed themselves as not very unlike the villagers in the short story.”
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.
There are two main symbols in this story, one being old man Warner, and the second being the black box. Both of these symbols give the reader a sense of tradition, with Mr. Warner not wanting to stop the lottery, and with the black box being nothing more than a symbol. Jackson leaves her audience with a great theme that can be applied to any society and any time period.
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.