Vin's Reviews > The Lottery

The Lottery by Shirley Jackson
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's review
Apr 12, 2011

Read on April 12, 2011

Shirley Jackson’s short story, “The Lottery,” starts on a beautiful day in June, with the entire population of a village meeting in the town square for the annual lottery. The lottery is a task that takes “less than two hours,” beginning at ten in the morning and ending “in time to allow the villagers to get home for noon dinner” or to “go back to work” (594, 596). Jackson writing builds intrigue, telling us about the lottery’s tradition that predates the entire village’s denizens and started the same time that the village did. I started to have a creepy feeling about the story right from the beginning, wondering what the reward is for winning the lottery. Something about this village was strange. It is only at the end of the story that I realized I had been reading a horror story, a voluntary group torture and killing committed by families. Rereading the story, knowing the outcome, really allowed me to see all the horrors present throughout the story.
The villagers plan to commit torture and murder of a neighbor they have known for many years, maybe even a lifetime. They plan on committing the atrocity swiftly, so they can get back to dinner and work. It is the young boys that gather the torture and killing devices, while playing boisterously. The men joke and smile, and the women “exchange bits of gossip” casually (594). Mr. Summers treats the “civic activity” with a rushed nonchalant manner (595). Every member of the village must participant in the lottery; even the small children have the chance to be murdered or be murderers. Neighbors are willing and anxious to get on with the murder of a friend. When the Hutchinsons find out they are the fated family, Nancy and Bill, Jr. know that one of their parents will be stoned to death but “beamed and laughed” showing off their blank slips of paper. It is Mr. Hutchinson that shows his wife’s slip of paper with the black dot; he makes no move to save her, but points her out as the sacrifice.
As I read though the story, I couldn’t understand why the villagers just didn’t stop the lottery. “Some places have already quit lotteries,” and many parts of the sadistic ritual had changed and even been forgotten (598). Old Man Warner, the person that has taken a chance with his life seventy-seven times in the lottery is convinced the sacrifice is needed. He says, “Lottery in June, corn be heavy soon” and implies if they don’t have the lottery they might as well live in caves and will be forced to eat “stewed chickweed and acorns” (597).
Who wins in this lottery? My guess is the village does, with abundant crops and an overall civility and order. This town has always counted on this annual murder ritual. It seems to me that this event is so ingrained in the minds of the villagers, right from birth, that the horror of it has become common place and horror itself is just another part of life and death in the village.
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message 1: by Ron (new) - rated it 2 stars

Ron Your review contains spoilers. Marking it as such would help to avoid ruining the story's experience for others.

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