Literary Analysis: Shirley Jackson’s The Lottery

The Lottery by Shirley Jackson is known as one of the most horrible but still realistic short stories about human life, traditions, and interests which are inherent to society. Due to such unusual ideas and attention to violence, Jackson’s story undergoes considerable critics and analyses of many sophisticated writers and thinkers for a long period of time. For example, Bernice Murphy makes an attempt to evaluate the domestic horror and causality that become the core of violence and death of innocent people.

According to this and many other critiques which analyze The Lottery, it is possible to admit that this story is full of symbolism that perfectly describes violence through everyday traditions and human imagination. Jackson touches upon numerous themes in her Lottery but the most evident as the ideas of violence, devotion to traditions, and fear to change something due to the concurrence of circumstances.

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Many critics underline the idea that the work by Jackson is “hinged upon the symbolism of the notorious tale” (Murphy 5). In fact, it is not very difficult to discover how skillfully and maturely the author can demonstrate a perfect use of symbols in order to describe all those issues many people are afraid of but still cannot evade.

The evident symbol of the story is “a three-legged stool” and the box that is “made with some pieces of the box that had preceded it” (Jackson 7). It is not only the symbol of something predictable or inevitable; it is also possible to recognize the idea of the trinity that usually has some religious roots. The lottery itself symbolizes all that cruelty, violence, and death which exist in the world and cannot be avoided by ordinary people.

Though the lottery is something “so-called normal and ordinary” (Murphy 248), this symbol represents some strange, terrible, and even horrible event that is unfair towards the citizens as it is stated by Tessie Hutchinson when “the stone hit her on the side of the head” (Jackson 21).

Her sacrificed murder is not supported by the author as well as by many critics. Her death is as stupid and unnecessary as a number of traditions and customs people like to follow and believe in. While the vast majority of people in the story cannot comprehend the necessity of this lottery, they also cannot comprehend how miserable and cowardly their faith may be.

This violence, inhuman attitude to each other, and the belief that someone’s death may change and improve the current state of affairs and human future are the central ideas in the story. Human weakness is the fact that people cannot comprehend that they sacrifice their present and lives to have a chance for some kind of future.

However, Jackson cries how unfair all this actually is through the words and emotions of Mrs. Hutchinson. However even if “it isn’t fair, it isn’t fair” (Jackson 21), nobody can interfere in the situation even those who take your hand several minutes ago and say that everything will be good.

The Lottery is a powerful and symbolic story about life and demands which have to be met by every people in a certain community. Among the variety of aspects which are described in the story, the reluctance of many people to reject cruel traditions and stop violence seems to be the most powerful because people are so absorbed in the idea to destroy violence that they become weak due to this violent power and its charms.

Works Cited

Jackson, Shirley. The Lottery. Mankato: The Creative Company, 2008.

Murphy, Bernice. Shirley Jackson: Essays on the Literary Legacy. Jefferson: McFarland, 2005.


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