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Transcript of "The Lottery"
caused major controversy when it was first published in The New Yorker (1948)
a record number of cancelled subscriptions followed the publishing of this story
Why Should I Care?
So, if you've ever been hanging out with a group of friends and done something truly stupid, you may have heard the refrain, "If your friends jumped off a bridge, would you jump, too?" Your answer is probably "no," but Shirley Jackson disagrees.
"Explaining just what I had hoped the story to say is very difficult. I suppose, I hoped, by setting a particularly brutal ancient rite in the present and in my own village to shock the story's readers with a graphic dramatization of the pointless violence and general inhumanity in their own lives."
A small town participates an annual ritual known as "the lottery."
Children gather stones as the adult townsfolk assemble for their annual event, that in the local tradition has been practiced to ensure a good harvest (one character quotes an old idiom: "Lottery in June, corn be heavy soon").
There are some rumors that nearby communities are talking of "giving up the lottery."
Like so many great horror stories, this one has a load of social commentary.
"The Lottery" is like the world's creepiest public service announcement against peer pressure. Similar to those warnings about drinking or smoking – except Jackson is warning against unthinkingly follow along with a group.
So there's your warning about group psychology!
In this story the tradition of “The Lottery” doesn't appear to have a history or logic of its own; it just is, and this type of thinking makes tradition hard to question.
We can read "The Lottery" as a kind of plea: if your only reason for doing something is that you've always done it, Jackson suggests that might not be a reason at all.
What is the influence of books?
While you annotate...
note your own reactions
look for ways to challenge this reading
The entire town gathers to draw slips of paper. One slip has a dot. The person with the dot doesn't win, they are instead stoned to death by the rest of the townspeople as a human sacrifice.