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Other commentators, however, view "The Lottery" as a modern-day parable; they argue that the elements of the story often disparaged by its critics are actually consistent with the style and structure of New Testament parables and to stories from the Old Testament.Generally, critics agree only that the story's meaning cannot be determined with exactitude.SOURCE: "On the Morning of June 28, 1948, and 'The Lottery,'" in The Story and Its Writer: An Introduction to Short Story Fiction, edited by Ann Charters, St. I was quite casual about it, as I recall—I opened the box, took out a couple of bills and a letter or two, talked to the postmaster for a few minutes, and left,... Most acknowledge the power of the story, admitting that the psychological shock of the ritual murder in an atmosphere of modern, small-town normality... In the following excerpt, she briefly discusses the publication history of "The Lottery" and examines the story's theme of social evil.] One of the ancient practices that modern man deplores as inhumanly evil is the annual sacrifice of a scapegoat or a god-figure for the benefit of the community. Either they are concerned with identifying specific items of folklore in works of literature, or they attempt to interpret the use of folklore as integral to the meaning of particular literary creations. Seymour Lainoff early on invoked the "primitive annual scapegoat rite" discussed in Frazer's The Golden...
According to Lenemaja Friedman, three "main characteristics dominated the letters: bewilderment, speculation, and old-fashioned abuse." Since then, critical reception has generally been very favorable, and "The Lottery" has been anthologized many times.
Those critics who read the story as a traditional narrative tend to fault its surprise ending and lack of character development as unrealistic, unbelievable, and making reader identification difficult.
The townspeople refuse to listen to her, and as the story ends they begin to pelt her with the stones they have gathered.
Major Themes The principal themes of "The Lottery" rely on the incongruous union of decency and evil in human nature. Frazer's anthropological study of primitive societies, The Golden Bough (1890), many critics observe that the story reflects humankind's ancient need for a scapegoat, a figure upon which it can project its most undesirable qualities, and which can be destroyed in a ritually absolving sacrifice.
Note how the shock is enhanced by the deadpan narrative style, which in no way suggests that anything unusual is going on.
In one sense the author has prepared for the ending.Plot and Major Characters "The Lottery" concerns an annual summer drawing held in a small unnamed American town.As the townspeople gather and wait for the ceremony to begin, some calmly piling stones together, they discuss everyday matters of work and family, behaving in ways that suggest the ordinariness of their lives and of the impending event.Each member of Bill's family then draws a slip from the box.Tessie selects the paper with the black mark on it, and she vigorously protests the unfairness of the drawing.∗The Road through the Wall (novel) 1948The Lottery; or The Adventures of James Harris (short stories) 1949Hangsaman (novel) 1951Life among the Savages (nonfiction) 1953 †The Bird's Nest (novel) 1954Witchcraft of Salem Village (juvenile fiction) 1956Raising Demons (nonfiction) 1957The Sundial (novel) 1958The Bad Children: A Play in One Act for Bad Children (drama) 1959 ‡The Haunting of Hill House (novel) 1959We Have Always Lived in the Castle (novel) 1962 §The Magic of Jackson (short stories and novels) 1966 §Come along with Me: Part of a Novel, Sixteen Stories, and Three Lectures (short stories, novel, and lectures) 1968 ∗This work was published as The Other Side of the Street in 1956. ‡This novel served as the basis for the film The Haunting (1963), written by Nelson Gidding and directed by Robert Wise. SOURCE: "Shirley Jackson, 'The Lottery': Comment," in Modern Short Stories: A Critical Anthology, edited by Robert B. In the following essay on "The Lottery," Heilman discusses how Jackson's shift "from a realistic to a symbolic technique" intensifies the shock value of the story's ending.] Miss Jackson's story ["The Lottery"] is remarkable for the tremendous shock produced by the ending.Let us ignore the problem of meaning for the moment and see how the shock is created. Up to the last six paragraphs the story is written in the manner of a realistic transcript of small-town experience: the day is a special one, true, but the occasion is familiar, and for the most part the people are presented as going through a well-known routine.Warren was the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of All the King's Men (1947), Promises: Poems, 1954–1956 (1957), and Now and Then: Poems, 1976–1978 (1979).In the following essay, they examine Jackson's intentions in "The Lottery," contending that it is meant to be a parable... [In the following edited version of a lecture on "The Lottery" that Jackson originally delivered in 1960 and published in Come Along with Me in 1968, she discusses public reaction to the story.] On the morning of June 28, 1948, I walked down to the post office in our little Vermont town to pick up the mail. [In the following essay, Nebeker discusses the underlying themes in "The Lottery," focusing on the religious symbolism and anthropological elements of the story.] Numerous critics have carefully discussed Shirley Jackson's "The Lottery" in terms of the scapegoat traditions of anthropology and literature, pointing out its obvious comment on the innate savagery of man lurking beneath his civilized trappings. [In the following essay, Allen analyzes the elements of folklore and ritual in "The Lottery," contending that Jackson successfully uses them to reveal various kinds of social behavior.] Most studies of folklore in literature fall into one of two categories. [In the following essay, Gibson identifies the similarities between the biblical story of Joshua -26 and "The Lottery," contending that while the biblical story emphasizes the supernatural triumph of good over evil, Jackson's story reveals a "chillingly impersonal world of gray amorality."] More than any other short story by Shirley Jackson, "The Lottery" has intrigued critics and provoked puzzled guesses about its enigmatic meaning.Unlike primitive peoples, however, the townspeople in "The Lottery"—insofar as they repre-sent contemporary Western society—should possess social, religious, and moral prohibitions against annual lethal stonings.Commentators variously argue that it is the very ritualization that makes the murder palatable to otherwise decent people; the ritual, and fulfilling its tradition, justifies and masks the brutality.