Analysis of Shirley Jackson's The Lottery Essays
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Shirley Jackson’s famous short story, “The Lottery,” was published in 1948 and remains to this day one of the most enduring and affecting American works in the literary canon. “The Lottery” tells the story of a farming community that holds a ritualistic lottery among its citizens each year. Although the text initially presents audiences with a close-knit community participating in a social event together on a special day, the shocking twist at the work’s end—with the death of the lottery’s “winner” by public stoning—has led to its widespread popularity, public outcry and discussion, and continued examination in modern times (Jackson). One potential critical theory that can be applied to Jackson’s “The Lottery” is the reader-response…show more content…
As Louise Rosenblatt notes, there are three key terms associated with reader-response theory: the ideal reader, the actual reader, and the implied reader. The ideal reader may be defined as one who is an “informed reader ... an audience that the author may have purposefully intended to read the text” (Parker 317-318). The actual reader, meanwhile, is little more than the actual audience encountering the text, while the implied reader is based on the notion of implicit assumptions of what audiences know and do not know. For “The Lottery,” then, it is logical to suppose that Shirley Jackson may have thought an ideal reader as one capable of analyzing works for close reading or deeper subtexts, while an implied reader would be one who is unaware of the plot’s surprise ending. Although reader-response theory may tend to focus on the reader’s interpretation of the text, it does not discount the writer’s sense of authorship, the social, historical, or even political context surrounding a given work of literature, or the text itself. In brief, “The Lottery” tells the story of an annual summer drawing that initially appears innocent to the reader, but becomes more tension-filled and ultimately dangerous as the short story continues. By the end of the piece, it is revealed that the lottery is not a fortunate winning at all, but an ancient ritual in which a group of relatively modern townspeople end up stoning the chosen woman (Jackson). The author,
“The Lottery”, a short story, by Shirley Jackson is a very suspenseful yet shocking read, which focus on how tragic it can be to blindly follow a tradition. The story is set in a small town, on the summer morning of June 27th. The story begins with the towns people gathering in the town square to carry out a lottery. The author explains that this is a long standing tradition in the local towns, where people gather every year to conduct a lottery. However, as the story progresses the reader come to realize that this story is not as simple and straight forward as the title suggests. Rather, it is dark and horrifying cautionary tale about repercussions of blindly following traditions and how this problem is exacerbated due to societal pressures. The author uses several objects, such as stones, old man Warner and black box, to support the story’s theme and its message. The narrator uses Black box as a main symbol to articulate the danger of blindly following the tradition of conducting a lottery which ends up with death of one person from the village every year. The colour of black box symbolizes the death. In addition to that the shabbier colour of box shows some of the stuff of lottery has been lost. The author keeps the reader puzzled and curious about the direction of the story. She uses literary devices, such as foreshadowing and symbols, to introduce the possible story line. She also uses here narration style to heighten suspense and make the reader wonder what will happen next.
Shirley Jackson uses black box as a physical object which connects the village people to the past tradition. As the author states in the story that, “there was a story that present box had been made with some pieces of the box that had preceded it, the one had been constructed when the first people settled down to make a village here”(Jackson, 212). In the beginning of the story, the author sheds some light regarding the history of the black box and its significance to the townspeople. The author suggests that the black box was made by the pioneers of the village and over time it has become a part of villager’s lives, to an extent that the townspeople have established it as a tradition. The author shows the attachment of the townspeople to the tradition associated with the black box via Mr. Summer, who is the town’s lottery official. This is evident when Mr. Summer speaks with the villagers about fixing the worn out and deteriorating lottery box; however, the villager’s are reluctant to restore the box in the fear of disturbing its original state, for the sake of tradition, as author mention in story, Mr. Summer, the lottery official “spoke frequently to the villagers about making a new box, but no one liked to upset even as much tradition as was represented by the black box” (Jackson 212). In addition to that as author sates “The black box grew shabbier each year; by now it was no longer completely black but splintered along one side to show the original wood color, and in some places faded or stained”. (Jackson 212) Apart from that Mr. Summers use paper slips as an alternative for the wood chips to keep the same box as the population town is growing, so they need replacement of something can fit in the box more easily. This gives us sense peoples of town has strong traditional attachment to the box.
Jackson also uses the black lottery box to represent and symbolize evil and death. The author used the box with black colour, because in most cultures the black colour is associated with evil and death. Moreover, when the author presents the lottery box in the story the townspeople maintain the distance from the proximity of the black lottery box. To make this point the narrator states that “the villagers kept their distances, leaving a space between themselves and the stool”(Jackson 212) on which the black box is lying. In addition to that she also gives the sense to the reader that people of village are in terror from black box when Mr. Summer set the back box on the stool asks the people to help him to hold the box so that Mr. Summer can mix the slips inside the box, ” there was a hesitation before two men, Mr. Martin and his oldest son, Baxter, came forward to hold the box” (Jackson 212). This foreshadows that something terrible might be awaiting the townspeople’s fate and gives the readers some indication as to the direction the story’s plot. As the story progresses, the slips are put in the box for the lottery draw and the people don’t seem to be thrilled about the possibility that they might win the lottery, further suggesting that the lottery isn’t what it seems to be at the face value. After the names go into the box, whoever draws a slip with black dot on it, his or her family is the victim to go for second round and one of them who get the slip with black dot is chosen to stone until death. So this proves that black colour symbolize the death. So, black box here is Tied into this symbol is the symbol of irony. The story initially makes the black box and the lottery seem like something good. People rush to gather for the opportunity to draw their names from the box. However, in the end of the story, one realizes the irony of the situation.
The important theme of the story is that the people blindly follow the tradition in the pressure of society which is shown by the author very skilfully via the symbol of black box. As the narrator first states in the story “the original paraphernalia for the lottery had been lost”(Jackson 212) and the black box itself is just used for two hours in a year and then put away at random places. As the author states “it had spent one year in Mr. Grave’s barn and another year underfoot in the post office and sometimes it was set on the shelf in the Martin grocery and left there.”(Jackson 213) ,which gives clear sense to the reader that town’s people do not be concerned about the box, it can be conclude that based on how they take care of the box .So symbolically this box representing tradition which has no current value and meaning . They are just trapped in the lottery tradition unwillingly.
In a nutshell, the author of short fiction Story “the Lottery” uses various literally devices such as black box as a symbol, foreshowing and her narration style to maintain the suspense in the story. She used black box as a symbol to present how people of village get trapped in to tradition of killing one person every year till his or her death by stones, and no one questions about it. On the bases of how they treat the black box by keeping it at random places it is clear that they are scared by the box and lottery. There are keeping it just for the sake of tradition and terrified to change it same like lottery tradition even though some of other rituals of lottery is vanished.