‘The Lottery’ by Shirley Jackson

Shirley Jackson

The Lottery by Shirley Jackson, 1948

The magic trick:

The not-so-subtle criticism of conservative values

Yes, yes, I know the obvious trick here is Jackson’s use of foreshadowing and suspense to set up the shocking conclusion. And she really does write the textbook here on how to accomplish that trick. But what resonates on repeat reads? I’d argue it’s the fairly harsh criticism of blind conservatism.

Jackson doesn’t make it a primary point, but she definitely highlights throughout the story some of the older townspeople’s disdain for the new generation and their loss of respect for the old traditions, even as it becomes increasingly clear that this particular tradition is barbarous. And that’s quite a magic trick on Jackson’s part.

The selection:

“Some places have already quit lotteries,” Mrs. Adams said.

“Nothing but trouble in that,” Old Man Warner said stoutly. “Pack of young fools.”

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