Critical Analysis Essay of The Lottery by Shirley Jackson
The Lottery, a short story, was written by Shirley Jackson. It was initially published in The New Yorker in its June 26, 1948 issue.
The story opens on a clear, sunny summer of June 27 at around ten o’clock in the morning. A festive mood was in the air. The 300 villagers headed towards the square to participate the yearly lottery.
First to arrive were the children. Heading the small group were the Martin brothers – Bobby and his elder brother Baxter; Bobby and Harry Jones; and Dickie Delacroix. They all piled up the stones on one corner of the square then engaged into a boisterous play. The girls came clinging at their older brother or sister.
Next to gather were the men. They situated themselves in an area away from the pile of stones built by their children. Few moments later, the group of women started to gather up. After few chit chats, each one heads towards their mensfolk.
Mr. Joe Summers, a coal plant owner and childless, conducts the annual lottery. He is often accompanied by Mr. Graves, the village’s postmaster.
There were murmurs when Mr. Summers came in to start the draw. But with his wit, he was able to capture the village’s attention back. The lottery was about to begin.
A roll call was made to make sure that everyone is present. Mr. Clyde Dunbar was not able to make it due to a broken leg, so Mrs. Dunbar represented him instead. Jack Watson, on the other end, stood for his father. Old Man Warner, the oldest man in the village, was present as always. He used to facilitate the said lottery.
Few minutes before the draw started, Mrs. Tessie Hutchinson came rushing in. She squeezed herself into the crowd until she finds her family.
Each head of the family has to pick from the old black box a paper. The one who gets the paper with a black dot is the chosen one. Nobody is allowed to open his paper ahead of the rest. Everyone is so eager to know who will get the special paper. Alas! It was Mr. Harburt ‘Bill’ Hutchinson who picked the said paper – right there on his hand was the paper with a black dot.
There was objection on Mrs. Hutchinson’s voice upon learning that it was her husband who got the said paper. She insisted that Bill was not given the chance to pick for a paper unlike the others but to no avail. Their household including Bill Jr., Nancy, Little Dave, Tessie and Bill Sr. had to get into another draw. Each one took a folded slip and this time it was Tessie who had the black-dotted paper.
This signaled for the crowd to get ready. Mrs. Delacroix picked and carried a big stone by both her hands and turned to Mrs. Dunbar to hurry up. Mrs. Dunbar had stones on both her hands but let them go ahead. The crowd started throwing stones at Tessie who kept saying that it was an unfair draw.
The story’s ending is rather ironic as to its title. When one says lottery, it is often referred to as good luck or luck of fortune. The story, however, showed a satire. Much of the symbolisms were made used.
Jackson made use of The Lottery to show how people from a small village go about life after World War II. It is a time of starting anew. It means drastic changes. Changes where one can expect the unexpected.
One representation to cite was Mrs. Hutchinson. Jackson made use of her character to show the attitudes that many took during that time. She is one person who never failed to complaint, always sees how unfair things have become. People, to this time, are much like her. Complaining without the effort first. Most often, her character turned out to be the loser.
There’s also a liner from the story by Old Man Warner – Lottery in June, corn be ready soon. It is a line expressing that after the lottery, a hope for a better harvest or life is soon imminent. The lottery has been a very old tradition by the village and that in itself was pictured via the old black box. The village’s tradition is very much like a cult that a sacrificial lamb has to be offered for a bountiful year ahead.
While many oppose such tradition, belief had greater hold on some.