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Short Story Group Reads > Shirley Jackson's The Lottery

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message 1: by Shel, ad astra per aspera (new)

Shel (shelbybower) | 946 comments Mod
A few things to know about this story.

It was first printed in The New Yorker on June 26, 1948. The day the story takes place is June 27.

The magazine and Jackson were surprised by the negative response. The story was banned in South Africa and hate mail flowed into the magazine throughout the summer. Many people cancelled their subscriptions.

Of the letters, all of which were forwarded to her, Jackson said: "The general tone of the early letters ... was a kind of wide-eyed, shocked innocence. People at first were not so much concerned with what the story meant; what they wanted to know was where these lotteries were held, and whether they could go there and watch."

In response to the criticism, Jackson has said:

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.

message 2: by Shel, ad astra per aspera (new)

Shel (shelbybower) | 946 comments Mod
I'm going to go all Joseph Campbell on you before we start discussing the story itself and ask - why human sacrifice?

How deeply is it tied to animal sacrifice? Was it viewed as a sort of ultimate sacrifice or as much the same thing? Why did people believe that choosing another human to ritualistically kill would help them in their world?

There are so many examples in ancient and religious literature and history. Abraham, in particular - that story always mystifies me. Greek mythology. Aztec history. Egypt. And those Druids.

I will have to dig through my Jung and Campbell before reading the story to figure this one out. In the meantime, I found this little Wikipedia quote:
There has been a lot of debate on the primacy of myth vs. ritual, and the presence of a myth of human sacrifice should not be taken as necessarily implying the historical existence of the actual practice: human sacrifice may be taken as the re-enactment of an older myth, or conversely a myth can be taken as a memory of an earlier practice of human sacrifice. Theistic rationalizations of human sacrifice may involve the idea of offering to deities as payment for favorable interventions in an event of special importance, to forestall unfavorable events, or to purchase disclosures about the physical world.

message 4: by Shel, ad astra per aspera (new)

Shel (shelbybower) | 946 comments Mod
Whoops! Thanks, Margaret!

message 5: by [deleted user] (new)


message 6: by Shel, ad astra per aspera (last edited Mar 10, 2010 06:06AM) (new)

Shel (shelbybower) | 946 comments Mod
So, I've been thinking about this sacrifice thing some more, I think it's important to get my head around it before reading this story again.

I have been wondering what human need it served and serves.

So - the taking of a life to ensure or guarantee a good crop seems to be the most prevalent "reason" for the rituals.

I have a few things floating through my head, here.

First there is the obvious: needs of the many outweighing needs of the few. If blood was perceived as necessary to shed in order to get food to grow... then the survival of the group does become worth the sacrifice, if you really believe that it helps.

I do wonder how it was decided across so many cultures in history that human sacrifice did what so many believed it did. I mean, what if... what if... they had something, there?

I know, it sounds like a crazy question, not one I'm able to answer. Shirley Jackson was willing, at least in words, to ask questions around what it would be like today if we still did it, if we still believed it helped the group survive.

But when I was studying Mayan history I was astonished at just how much they knew, and that everything they did - right down to the ball game they played - was weighted with meaning within their culture. Granted, the Aztecs were the group who did most of the sacrificing, but still. These civilizations were more advanced than most of us give them credit for, and one of the reasons we don't is the human sacrifice issue.

But here is what I am also wondering: is it really about channeling what is rotten within a group of people and exorcising it through the death of one person? Believing that we can get rid of our negative, thanatos energy through getting rid of just one member?

message 7: by [deleted user] (new)

wouldn't the "Death Penalty" cover this ground in our "civilization"?

message 8: by Shel, ad astra per aspera (new)

Shel (shelbybower) | 946 comments Mod
Maybe. It is ritualized killing, and the intent is to "cleanse" society.

Do we use the death penalty to exorcise the evil out of ourselves vicariously? I don't know. I think it has more to do with collective vengeance and a kind of sinister voyeurism around death than any kind of true cleansing. If that's even a reasonable, viable purpose behind it.

Certainly has nothing to do with making the crops grow better, even if the intent is a less "evil" society...

message 9: by Bonita (new)

Bonita (NMBonita) | 120 comments So this would not be categorized as a Man vs. Nature?

When I first read The Lottery, several years ago, I was completely lost and quite honestly, bored. But I pulled on through because it was Shirley Jackson, so it had to get better, right? What I like the most about it now is all of the symbolism, the black box for example. The happy, cheerful opening. And people's reactions. The kids looking for the best rocks to stuff into their pockets.

I wouldn't say I was scared out of my mind during that first read, it was more like, "Wow! What a bad-ass ending."

I can't think of anyone in America who would offer up a live sacrifice for the benefit of the town. But we do have a way of ignoring the poor and the homeless and those people who are born retarded or disfigured. (but that's another story, isn't it?)

It's funny, because I just finished reading "Rainy Season" a few nights ago (from Nightmares & Dreamscapes). It's about a husband and wife who go to Willow, Maine and decide to stay, despite protests from the locals. When the “rain” starts, the couple must win the battle of Man vs. Nature if they have any hope of making it out alive. Only in this story, (and this is not really a spoiler) it's not the townsfolk who make the decision, IT just happens. And, unlike in the Lottery, there's no *true evil lying in each person's heart.

Didn't Shirley Jackson read about an event somewhere and that's what gave her the idea? I have to dig around... I know I read that somewhere.

*Here's a link:

A Critical Analysis of The Lottery by Shirley Jackson

message 10: by Christy (new)

Christy (christybuttons) | 19 comments Well I haven't read this in about 20 years but I found it just as disturbing at 35 as I did at 15. I just read the critical analysis and was actually surprised that the symbolism refers to capitalism. I see their point but I just don't personally get that from the story. To me this story is a warning of following old traditions without question, and also that maybe the "good ol' days" weren't so grand after all.

message 11: by [deleted user] (last edited Mar 14, 2010 11:29AM) (new)

At the start of the story Mrs Hutchinson is all lighthearted and flip:

Mrs. Hutchinson came hurriedly along the path to the square, her sweater thrown over her shoulders, and slid into place in the back of the crowd. "Clean forgot what day it was," she said to Mrs. Delacroix, who stood next to her, and they both laughed softly.

"Thought we were going to have to get on without you, Tessie." Mrs. Hutchinson said. grinning, "Wouldn't have me leave m'dishes in the sink, now, would you. Joe?," and soft laughter ran through the crowd as the people stirred back into position after Mrs. Hutchinson's arrival.

"Get up there, Bill," Mrs. Hutchinson said. and the people near her laughed.

Then she doesnt think it's fair or funny:

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!"

"Be a good sport, Tessie." Mrs. Delacroix called, and Mrs. Graves said, "All of us took the same chance."

"Shut up, Tessie," Bill Hutchinson said.

"It wasn't fair," Tessie said.

"I think we ought to start over," Mrs. Hutchinson said, as quietly as she could. "I tell you it wasn't fair. You didn't give him time enough to choose. Everybody saw that."

"Tessie," Mr. Summers said. She hesitated for a minute, looking around defiantly. and then set her lips and went up to the box. She snatched a paper out and held it behind her.

Bill Hutchinson went over to his wife and forced the slip of paper out of her hand. It had a black spot on it, the black spot Mr. Summers had made the night before with the heavy pencil in the coal company office. Bill Hutchinson held it up, and there was a stir in the crowd.

"It isn't fair, it isn't right," Mrs. Hutchinson screamed, and then they were upon her.

The strangest part for me is when her older kids get blanks and turn to the crowd beaming. (not,seemingly, worried for thier parents). And then someone giving little Davey some pebbles to stone his own mother. Very creepy.

message 12: by Matt, e-monk (last edited Mar 15, 2010 06:49AM) (new)

Matt Comito | 386 comments Mod
from the links provided by Bonita:

"Shirley Jackson’s short story “The Lottery” conveys how communal mores eclipse the importance of individuality and act as the puppeteer of society. In order to underscore the detrimental effects of such regulated behavior, Jackson employs a writing style laden with symbolism. In doing so, she encourages her audience to read the passage actively and to consider all facets of the dilemma. One of the most prominent symbols is the color black, representing the corruptive forces of capitalism perpetuating the town’s annual lottery, carrying out the selection of an unassuming individual. "

er, what? capitalism?

"Shirley Jackson explores the theme of social class division in “The Lottery.” The town’s social class division is unwittingly built around the “lottery.”

The town’s social ladder is broken down into people with the most powerful occupations, only men were employed in these occupations. As the owner of the coal business, Mr. Summers was the most powerful businessman in the town. Mr. Graves, the post office official, and Mr. Martin, the town grocer, were the other prominent businessmen in the town. The townsman in charge of conducting the lottery was Mr. Summers; his occupation allowed him the “time and energy to devote to civic activities.” Mr. Graves and Mr. Martin also aided Mr. Summers during the lottery. The wealthiest people in the town not only had economic control, but the lottery instilled their political control in the town as well. Other men in the town, although not directly in charge of the lottery, had more power then women. The men were the ones to choose the lottery slip for the family, placing them in charge of the family. "

um, pardon me? class divisions? I freakin' hate academics, I really do

message 13: by Shel, ad astra per aspera (new)

Shel (shelbybower) | 946 comments Mod

Hm. I guess in a T.S. Eliot's Wasteland kind of a way... where we are all lemmings, or a Pink Floyd Brick in the Wall sort of way...

But given the time it was written, I was thinking totalitarianism... or the Holocaust.

message 14: by Matt, e-monk (last edited Mar 29, 2010 10:06AM) (new)

Matt Comito | 386 comments Mod
in what way does the color 'black' convert itself to become the symbol of 'capitalism' - I get black = corruption but then there's just the matter of the next leap/link - are there pre-existing conventions of color language that I am unaware of? what are the clues? I dont see any because as I suspect they arent there - in the conventions of color language I am familiar with black tends to equate with death - that wouldnt work here would it? like I said, I freaking hate this kind of academic bs

does conformity = capitalism? let me blow a big grey, concrete soviet raspberry at that - conformity equates with human condition regardless of economic system - hell, ask a chimpanzee the next time you talk to one - he'll tell you conformity is a pretty big thing in his world too

is one of the proper critiques of capitalism not that it erodes tradition? where is this story without tradition? it doesnt happen without it is where

this story isnt about capitalism and it's not about class - that academic is interested in those things and trying to foist them off on this story and that's tiresome

message 15: by Christy (new)

Christy (christybuttons) | 19 comments Matt I'm so glad you said that because I was still trying to figure out their angle. I have a hard time disagreeing with "academic" opinions - I always tend to think I'm missing something, before I think "they" are full of bs. I admire your confidence and ability to call them on it :)

message 16: by Patrick, The Special School Bus Rider (new)

Patrick (horrorshow) | 269 comments Mod
I always thought it was a general statement on human nature, how we don't really look out for those who are unlucky or had to struggle through life. There was no 'but for the grace of God...' It could include economic, physical handicap, accident, and any situation that Hutchinson cry out about, 'It isn't fair, it isn't right!' I could not help but think that if Hutchinson was not chosen, she would have been like the others, beaming or sighing in relief. This story depresses me but it is to me, true of human nature.

message 17: by Matt, e-monk (last edited Mar 15, 2010 09:53AM) (new)

Matt Comito | 386 comments Mod
life isnt fair - the state of nature is not fair

message 18: by Patrick, The Special School Bus Rider (new)

Patrick (horrorshow) | 269 comments Mod
That's why I always believe that justice isn't only blind, it is also deaf, cognitive impeded, mentally ill and is addicted to crack.

message 19: by Matt, e-monk (last edited Mar 20, 2010 06:56AM) (new)

Matt Comito | 386 comments Mod
is it fair to a rabbit that he's a rabbit and that the wolf is a wolf? no but that rabbit still better shag tail because that big old wolf is a freaking capitalist pig bent on exploiting his ass - you can bet on it

run bunny rabbit! run! he's going to make you work long hours in a factory and pay you unfair wages!

(-a marxist critique of the state of nature)

message 20: by Bonita (new)

Bonita (NMBonita) | 120 comments Yeah, I still feel like this story is more about tradition than capitalism. And
human nature is not fair.

Another link: http://encyclopedia.thefreedictionary...

Helen E. Nebeker's essay, "The Lottery: Symbolic Tour de Force" in American Literature (March, 1974) reveals that every major name in the story has a special significance:

By the end of first two paragraphs, Jackson has carefully indicated the season, time of ancient excess and sacrifice, and the stones, most ancient of sacrificial weapons. She has also hinted at larger meanings through name symbology. "Martin," Bobby’s surname, derives from a Middle English word signifying ape or monkey. This, juxtaposed with "Harry Jones" (in all its commonness) and "Dickie Delacroix" (of-the-Cross) urges us to an awareness of the Hairy Ape within us all, veneered by a Christianity as perverted as "Delacroix," vulgarized to "Dellacroy" by the villagers. Horribly, at the end of the story, it will be Mrs. Delacroix, warm and friendly in her natural state, who will select a stone "so large she had to pick it up with both hands" and will encourage her friends to follow suit... "Mr. Adams," at once progenitor and martyr in the Judeo-Christian myth of man, stands with "Mrs. Graves"—the ultimate refuge or escape of all mankind—in the forefront of the crowd.

message 21: by Matt, e-monk (new)

Matt Comito | 386 comments Mod

there’s "The Lottery," of course, the story everyone knows even if they don't remember Shirley Jackson's name. A small New England town, blandly familiar in every way, sleepwalking its way through ritual murder. Likely the most controversial piece of fiction ever published in the New Yorker, resulting in hundreds of canceled subscriptions, later adapted for television, radio and ballet, it now resides in the popular imagination as an archetype. It can be as difficult to persuade readers that the story is just one sheaf in the portfolio of one of this century's most luminous and strange American writers as it is to explain that the town portrayed in "The Lottery" is a real one.

I know it is, because I lived there. North Bennington is a tiny village less than a mile from the otherwise isolated Bennington campus in Vermont. Shirley Jackson was married to Stanley Edgar Hyman, a literary critic who taught at the college. And she spent her life in the town, raising four children, presiding over a chaotic household that was host to Ralph Ellison, Bernard Malamud and Howard Nemerov, and at times going quietly crazy — and writing, always, with the rigor of one who has found her born task. Six novels, two bestselling volumes of deceptively sunny family memoirs and countless stories before her death at 48, in 1965.

The town hasn't changed, or at least it hadn't by the mid- eighties, when I was a student at the school. A handful of the townspeople portrayed in thin disguise in Jackson's novels and stories were still around. I knew the square where "The Lottery" takes place. It was Jackson's fate, as a faculty wife and an eccentric newcomer in a staid, insular village, to absorb the reflexive antisemitism and anti-intellectualism felt by the townspeople toward the college. She and her children were accessible in a way that her husband and his colleagues and students, who spent their days on the campus, were not.

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.

The hostility of the villagers further shaped her psyche, and her art; the process eventually redoubled so the latter fed the former. After the enormous success of "The Lottery," a legend arose in town, almost certainly false, that Jackson had been pelted with stones by schoolchildren one day, then gone home and written the story. The real crisis came near the end of her life, resulting in a period of agoraphobia and psychosis; she wrote her way through it in "We Have Always Lived in the Castle." In that novel, Jackson brilliantly isolates the two aspects in her psyche into two odd, damaged sisters: one hypersensitive and afraid, unable to leave the house, the other a sort of squalid demon prankster who may or may not have murdered the rest of her family for her fragile sister's sake. For me, it is that unique and dreamlike book, rather than "The Lottery," that stands as her masterpiece..."

message 22: by [deleted user] (new)

Chance, blind chance. I'd be moving my ass to one of those villages with no lottery.

message 23: by Shel, ad astra per aspera (last edited Mar 15, 2010 08:02PM) (new)

Shel (shelbybower) | 946 comments Mod
Matt, thanks for that Lethem post.

My apologies for my absence today, work and a fantastic reading by Joyce Carol Oates distracted me.

I really want to dismiss the academic bullshit, too, because to me, this story is about visceral, primal impulse as much as it is about thoughtless following of savage tradition.

This makes me really want to read We Have Always Lived in the Castle.

I don't have a ton to add tonight. Trying to get some of my own writing done. But I have some thoughts I will start to add tomorrow.

message 24: by Shel, ad astra per aspera (new)

Shel (shelbybower) | 946 comments Mod
A couple of interesting lines and things I noticed...

"the feeling of liberty sat uneasily on most of them" (about the children on summer break)

Delacroix means, in French, of the cross.

That the lottery is conducted in the same manner and by the same person as "the square dances, the teen club, the Halloween program"

The discussion around putting papers in the black box instead of chips of wood... further gives the air that this ritual is something people think about a lot and discuss how to conduct efficiently... which makes it all the more horrific.

That as the lottery is conducted there is conversation about abandoning it.

"Although the villagers had forgotten the ritual and lost the original black box, they still remembered to use stones." -- that the villagers had left behind the ritual but retained the cruel method of actually killing.

message 25: by Shel, ad astra per aspera (last edited Mar 16, 2010 11:26AM) (new)

Shel (shelbybower) | 946 comments Mod
There is one significant difference between the human sacrifice rituals I can remember reading about and this one, though I could be totally wrong about this...

Aren't most of these rituals performed by one person, historically speaking?

If so, this is an astonishing peek into the will of the collective, and maybe we're actually talking about fascism here.

Or maybe we're not talking about any ism at all. Given the Lethem article above, this could be about collective cruelty, exorcism...

message 26: by Shel, ad astra per aspera (new)

Shel (shelbybower) | 946 comments Mod
I want to talk more about this Salon story as it relates to themes in the story.

There are so many significant connections... this seems to me to be one of those stories in which we are being offered a lens into the life of the writer and her intentions... and my earliest post about reader response in the New Yorker makes a ton of sense if you think about people more or less recognizing themselves or being touchy about the state of society at the time.

If you think about the schism for her mentally/personally, and maybe you consider for a moment that the people of the village are her own psyche - the part of her psyche that recognized what "normal" was and wanted the less "wild" version of her to go away - then it can be a story about societal pressure to conform making its way into an actual personality. Or the pressure we put on ourselves to be proper, to fit in, to behave a certain way.

And then there's the idea that it's an actual critique of the behavior of the people of her real-life village ostracizing her.

message 27: by Patrick, The Special School Bus Rider (new)

Patrick (horrorshow) | 269 comments Mod
It is difficult for me to critique the behavior of the general population after reading William R. Forstchen's novel about electromagnetic pulse that happens if a nuclear bomb blew up in the atomosphere called 'One Second After.' I think back then when the story The Lottery was written, the town had to depend on one another for survival. Most of the food available was from farms and ranches, not from corporations or factories and any town back then had to depend on postal services, delivery trucks to grocery stores, various farmlands, education by rote and memorization, the only moving equipment were mechanical, there was no internet, no computer systems back then that you can order at the click of the mouse.

It seems that the collective spirit of the town was necessary because we need businesses like the coal company and the postal services for job employments. And if you don't really contribute to the town's need, then you're out. As Matt said, life and nature ain't fair.

message 28: by Pavel (new)

Pavel Kravchenko (pavelk) | 96 comments I don't know about capitalism. To me it seems about the machine in general. The replacement of wood chips with paper seems like a reference to paper money being introduced, but I didn't get what the color black was about. If anything, in the black box it signified mystery to me, arcane knowledge, something "mere mortals" should not mess with. Something they should "distance themselves from" as they do in the story, and leave to "capable" men.

The most obviously disturbing thing, of course, is not the human sacrifice or the stones or the ending, but the fact that not a single one of the villagers asks why the lottery exists. Even those who bring up other places and changes taking place never sound like they would like to see the changes take place in their village. Hell, even the victim, whom we expect, or at least hope, to wake up from this nightmare, never does. There is no thought there. Just fear, primal, primitive fear. Even when the stone hits her in the head she is only afraid. She still never asks why.

message 29: by Shel, ad astra per aspera (new)

Shel (shelbybower) | 946 comments Mod
I agree that while one can talk about the economic or -ismness of the story, that it's not the real point.

To me, Pavel, what you bring up gets at the heart of the question of why human sacrifice is believed to be beneficial at all. Who came up with that one? How did they prove it to the others? Or was such fear created around what would happen if it wasn't done that it was too "big" to question?

For something so horrible to get to the point where it's not even questioned... is deeper than a mythology and, in my opinion, stranger than a blind leap of faith into something that benefits the village as a whole.

And the fear of questioning -- what might happen to a person if they do question? -- is greater than the fear that it might be you next time around.

message 30: by Pavel (new)

Pavel Kravchenko (pavelk) | 96 comments I think the general theory says something to the effect of when people started worshiping the elements out of fear, they started looking for ways to appease these "gods" and sacrifices were invented, modest at first and then increasing in "potency." Personally, I think it's a lot more believable that aliens came and physically abducted early humans in exchange for some favors, and the tradition stuck around.

message 31: by Bonita (new)

Bonita (NMBonita) | 120 comments Well, when you live in fear you don't even realize that you can question the powers that be. You're just afraid. You just keep your mouth shut and do what you're told. And if one person (the minority) does happen to get brave and scream out, it won't do them any good. It's blasphemey to speak out against the crowd. Tradition and Religion are the fertile ground in which fear takes root and thrives.

message 32: by Shel, ad astra per aspera (new)

Shel (shelbybower) | 946 comments Mod
See, that's what made me think of Germany and other western European countries during the holocaust.

message 33: by Bonita (new)

Bonita (NMBonita) | 120 comments America lives in fear too.

message 34: by Matt, e-monk (new)

Matt Comito | 386 comments Mod
so do rabbits

message 35: by Bonita (new)

Bonita (NMBonita) | 120 comments The next generation could choose to carry on the tradition, or, they could decide to question authority. Is this how revolutions get started?

message 36: by Pavel (new)

Pavel Kravchenko (pavelk) | 96 comments Matt wrote: "so do rabbits"

No they don't.

message 37: by Pavel (last edited Mar 18, 2010 08:05PM) (new)

Pavel Kravchenko (pavelk) | 96 comments Bonita wrote: "Well, when you live in fear you don't even realize that you can question the powers that be. You're just afraid. You just keep your mouth shut and do what you're told. And if one person (the minori..."

No, I disagree. You may keep your mouth shut and do what you are told, but nothing prevents you from opening your mouth when you are relatively safe. Nor does anyone prevent you from thinking. Fear does not equal dimness. You can live in constant fear and scheme against the regime day and night.

And anyway, no one lives in fear in this story. The fear I mentioned only showed its face when the victim was selected. She faces certain death, which really liberates her from "fear" of speaking her mind publicly, and yet she still only manages to cry "no fair!", a pathetic childish plea I hated even when I was a kid. Fear is there, but it's not a reason of anything. It's simply the only thing she's capable of. And I suspect the same for every single one of them. And yet, in their own way, they are undoubtedly happy.

message 38: by Pavel (last edited Mar 18, 2010 07:54PM) (new)

Pavel Kravchenko (pavelk) | 96 comments Bonita wrote: "The next generation could choose to carry on the tradition, or, they could decide to question authority. Is this how revolutions get started?"

And no. :P Ahh, three "noes" a day keep the boredom away.

No, "generations" don't start revolutions. Individuals start revolutions. That's why they get whacked. In this context, though, and following up a little bit on the previous post with the fear and everything, what's most infuriating about the fact that no one speaks out or questions the lottery is that there is the perfect set up for it.

It's a small village. It's evident that villagers are capable of only sanctioned violence, which means that until you draw the black mark you are safe to say whatever you want. Hell, they even start talking about other villages and how they abandon the lottery, which is where someone had the perfect chance to ask nonchalantly, "Yeah, those other villages are crazy! Without the lottery they won't have the... Wait, what is the lottery for, again? Why do we do this every year?" But no one does. Where is the kid who shouts that the king is naked?

message 39: by Patrick, The Special School Bus Rider (last edited Mar 18, 2010 07:59PM) (new)

Patrick (horrorshow) | 269 comments Mod
Have anyone seen the paper construction film called 'The Refinery's Fire.' In it, all the film shows was dozen of gray squares and then one of them changed into a red circle, and was rolling around freely, and then another square changed into the circle and then the squares closed in and tore the first circle into pieces and then the other red circle was closed in by the gray squares and then the red circle was pressured to change back into the gray square. I thought it is a very artistic film and really defines group behavior and the Tartulas (s.p. I know) theory or what the Deaf calls 'Crab in bucket of crabs theory.' The Lottery's theme is similar to that I think.

message 40: by Patty, free birdeaucrat (new)

Patty | 896 comments Mod
it's easy to ask "why do the characters in this story fail to question." it's much harder to answer the question that Shirley Jackson is asking us, her readers, which is "why don't you question?"

in this story she sets up a worst-case scenario, showing us one awful possibility for a society that does not subject itself/it's traditions to periodic review and revision. (this is probably why the academic above made the mistake of assuming it was about the corruptive forces of capitalism. she came to the story with "unquestioned belief in the rightness of capitalism no matter what" in her mind as the prominent problem of the society that Jackson was living in.)

but anyway, why don't we question? it's easy to look at other people's traditions and say that they don't make logical sense. it's much harder to explain why we don't question our own.

message 41: by Matt, e-monk (last edited Mar 25, 2010 06:27AM) (new)

Matt Comito | 386 comments Mod
Pavel wrote: "Matt wrote: "so do rabbits"

No they don't."

they do if they are proletariat rabbits living under the thumb of Boss Wolf

message 42: by Shel, ad astra per aspera (new)

Shel (shelbybower) | 946 comments Mod
Well, I was trying to question what the ritual of human sacrifice might do for a society. What something so built on fear is all about. Whether or not it's a collective exorcism of evil or anger or fear or repressed versions of those things.

But there are so many things to question, aren't there? It's almost hard to get to the fundamentals, there is so much minutiae. Words like "values" and "culture" stand in the way of digging down, all the way, to the first principles.

message 43: by Bonita (new)

Bonita (NMBonita) | 120 comments At least we can say that the story is successful, in that it does make us question. Lots to think about.

message 44: by Bonita (new)

Bonita (NMBonita) | 120 comments Patrick wrote: "Have anyone seen the paper construction film called 'The Refinery's Fire.' In it, all the film shows was dozen of gray squares and then one of them changed into a red circle, and was rolling around..."

Is this a short film? Where can I find it?

message 45: by Shel, ad astra per aspera (new)

Shel (shelbybower) | 946 comments Mod
I have a good friend who writes an amazing blog. She wrote this post about love and service, about how we are everyone, even George Bush. It made me think about all that we share between us, even collective fear and anxiety, which made me think of this story.

message 46: by Patrick, The Special School Bus Rider (new)

Patrick (horrorshow) | 269 comments Mod
Bonita wrote: "Patrick wrote: "Have anyone seen the paper construction film called 'The Refinery's Fire.' In it, all the film shows was dozen of gray squares and then one of them changed into a red circle, and wa..."

I am not sure how to get it on You Tube. That short film was brillant and really summed up the theme that inspired my idea of epic dystopia story.

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