Analysis of THE LOTTERY by Shirley Jackson

Essay by QminatiCollege, UndergraduateA, January 2003

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The short story, "The Lottery," by Shirley Jackson is one pf the most shocking stories I have ever read. It caused controversy when it was published in a New York newspaper and for good reason. The ending is very unsettling and I would even categorize it as a horror story. The picture the story paints prepares you for the exact opposite of what actually happens, making this a confusing, yet unforgettable story. It is hard to figure out what the message is in this story. Starting from the beginning there are many things one must notice upon a second reading. Subtle symbolism is used in a genius manner so that only on a second reading can the reader understand what the author is doing in every paragraph she writes. Throughout the story we are never sure about what exactly this lottery is, which keeps the reader in suspense.

The story begins with a cheerful mood. It is summertime in a small town of 300 people. Every character comes off as friendly and full of positive energy. Jackson sets the scene for a beautiful day by describing growing flowers and beautiful grass. The reader is reeled into a peaceful mood and becomes comfortable in "knowing" this is peaceful story. The only confusion in the beginning is when the children are gathering stones and making piles of them. The reader may indicate the children will be throwing the stones, yet in a childlike playful manner and no violent premonitions can be made due to the peaceful setting counteracting and overpowering any violent thoughts. The interaction between characters is 100% friendliness.

The story informs us that everybody in town is gathering at the town square, which is located between a post office and a bank. At first this means nothing extraordinary...