“The Lottery” Essay: Summary & Analysis
This “The Lottery” essay will focus on the analysis of the main plot wrists and themes of the short story written by Shirley Jackson in 1948. This story quickly became popular because of the psychological themes wrapped in a bizarre narrative so readers have a lot of room for analysis.
The story revolves around an annual lottery. This isn’t a regular lottery but rather a gruesome event which implies that friends and family members should randomly select someone in the village and stone them to death. Such a lottery has been a tradition for many years and it was initially aimed to ensure a good harvest.
When the story takes place, nobody remembers why such a tradition exists but nobody questions it. The author shows that such a tradition is perceived by people as something absolutely normal.
People are excited about the lottery, they prepare tickets and are ready to kill whoever turns out to be the least lucky person in the village. In this short story, Jackson shows what people are capable of when terrible things are justified by traditions. Nobody questions local customs in this remote American village, and its inhabitants are not concerned about the atrocities that happen there.
“The Lottery” by Shirley Jackson: Summary
“The Lottery” depicts a few moments from the life of a remote village in America. Mr. Graves and Mr. Summers prepare lottery tickets. All but one of them are empty, and one ticket has a black dot. These tickets are placed in a large box, and Mr. Summers keeps this box in his office.
During the celebration, all families grab tickets from the box, and then open these folded tickets simultaneously. Bill Hutchinson opens a ticket with the mark. His wife is shocked and she starts protesting, but others ignore her.
Once the first stage of the lottery is completed, members of the chosen family draw tickets to choose who will die. Every member of the family should participate, and even the youngest children, who are not old enough to understand what happens, should draw their tickets.
Mrs. Hutchinson, who protested against her family being chosen for the annual lottery, draws the unlucky ticket this time, and all the participants immediately start to pick their rocks, even her little son. The elders of the village encourage everyone to respect the tradition while Mrs. Hutchinson is being stoned to death by her neighbors and family members.
“The Lottery”: Literary Analysis
Jackson mostly uses characters’ actions to describe them. Although we only see the characters through a few actions, these actions have significant consequences or clearly define the characters. For instance, we can see that Mrs. Delacroix is quick-tempered. She picks the biggest rock she can find, and she’s even frustrated by the fact that she needs to hold this rock with two hands (Shirley 76).
The plot of this story shows us that the author strongly disagrees with the savage nature of humankind and its hypocrisy. She describes people who treat each other “without a flinch of sympathy” (Shirley 281). The idea of an annual lottery suggests that someone should benefit from it, but this doesn’t happen. These people simply murder somebody because other people did that before, and they gain nothing from it.
Jackson illustrates human evilness by writing about horrible things in an ordinary way. None of the characters see what they do as something evil, and the whole preparation for the lottery happens in a relaxed and friendly setting.
The whole story is presented in such a way that we don’t even feel how terrible this annual celebration is until the very end. Mr. Summers, who takes care of the tickets and is in charge of the lottery, is respected by other members of the community. He coordinates various activities and organizes events.
Mr. Summers is depicted as a leader with a modest personality. While his hand is resting on the box with tickets, he looks “very proper and important” (Jackson 282). The whole procedure doesn’t raise any questions among the villagers, even though it violates basic human rights.
Jackson uses the names of her characters symbolically. For instance, the name Summers reminds us of the initial theme of the lottery which used to be a seasonal event (Marshall 3). Mr. Summers’ assistant, Mr. Graves also has a symbolic name that reminds us of the gruesome nature of this event.
The lottery simply portrays the wicked nature of humans. Such a tradition has existed in this area for many generations, and still, nobody questions it. No one is nervous about this terrible practice simply because it’s perceived as traditional and normal. Even Mrs. Hutchinson only starts to protest after her family is chosen (Hyman 46). Eventually, Mrs. Hutchinson is sacrificed right after expressing her disagreement.
Nobody is disgusted by the violation of people’s rights for life (Hyman 35), and the lack of morality makes people do horrible things. People’s brutality looks especially shocking because of how calm and relaxed these people are. Such a setting reflects people’s profound hypocrisy and wickedness (Marshall 3).
Mrs. Hutchinson is the only person who starts to protest against the tradition but we quickly realize that there’s no place for disagreements and doubt in this society. Jackson perfectly illustrates how people agree with any cultural norms they’re put in unless these norms start to hurt them personally. No matter how friendly these ordinary people look, their evil nature continues to thrive, and Mrs. Hutchinson is just another victim that will be soon forgotten by everyone.
“The Lottery” by Shirley Jackson illustrates humans’ cruel nature and the way people mistreat each other as long as it doesn’t go against beliefs and cultural norms. This short story revolves around the topic of traditions that remain unquestioned by people, no matter how absurd and brutal they are.
Besides, the author focuses on the evilness of human nature. We see a ray of hope at the end when Mrs. Hutchinson becomes the one to question the tradition but she quickly dies. The overall calm setting illustrates how easily people get used to any social malpractices, no matter how brutal they are.
Hyman, Stanley. The Presentation of Evil in “The Lottery”. 2000, New Jersey: Bantam Publishing Co.
Jackson, Shirley. The Lottery. 1948, New York: McGraw-Hill Publishers.
Marshall, Garry. Analysis of “The Lottery” a Short Story by Shirley Jackson. 2003, New York: Lori Voth Publishers.