Shirley Jackson wrote The Lottery in 1948, not long after the second World War. The horror of the Holocaust was still fresh in everyones minds. Jackson wrote this story to remind everyone that we are not so far from this world of sadistic human sacrifice. She created a town, very much like any American town, with the gathering of the towns people to celebrate some annual event. She wanted to shine a mirror on contemporary society, a reflection of humanity, or rather, inhumanity. One would think that she was protesting against the shallow hypocrites that rule the world.
The town sets up this lottery in a very practical way, there were several things that were a part of the ritual that the town allowed to fade from practice. But the town still saw it necessary to stone a citizen to death once a year just because that was the way it was always done. Shirley Jackson wanted the world to try and find another way, to break away from traditions and be more humane human beings. Once the heads of household have drawn, everyone looks at the slip of paper in their hands and at the same time everyone is praying that it is not their family.
Once again the family members draw and each one is praying it is not them, at the same time they know that they are about to lose a loved one. Everyone has felt these same feelings. A friend loses her husband or child and we say a little prayer of thanks to what ever power each of us believes in , thank goodness it was not me. When Tessie Hutchinson realizes that her family has been chosen she says,I tell you it wasnt fair. You didnt give him time enough to choose. Everybody saw that.(233)
The Lottery makes one feel guilty for desiring ones own survival. It reminds us to listen to new ideas, especially ideas that break unnecessary traditions. The world should embrace those that live their lives in a fashion that does not reflect societys idea of normal, rather than cast them out. The world could take lessons from Shirley Jackson even today.
- Jackson, Shirley. The Lottery. Literature: An Introduction to Fiction, Poetry and Drama. Ed. X.J. Kennedy and Dana Gioa. 7th ed. New York: 1999. 228 – 229