‘The Lottery Ticket’ by Ventura García Calderón

The Lottery Ticket by Ventura García Calderón, 1945

The magic trick:

Turning a nasty portrait of a town’s culture in on itself, producing a new level of social criticism

The story’s central premise is itself a nasty portrait of the society in this particular Cuban setting. The town is so taken with a touring dancer, they hold a lottery to determine who wins the opportunity to spend a night with her. Yikes. I know about the dangers of employing presentism in your analysis. But yikes.

But then guess what? The story goes further. We get a new mechanism, introduced near the end of the story, that extends the nasty portrait into new territory. I won’t ruin it with specifics, but what is interesting is that it turns the story’s moral perspective on its head. Suddenly, what before felt like nasty portrait of a particular town now feels more like a much broader social commentary.

So we’re not left shaking our head at the author, but instead cursing the culture that is portrayed.

And that’s quite a trick on Calderón’s part.

The selection:

The whole room looked for the winner, some mocking voices called for him to go up on the stage so that everyone could see him before he went into the wings with Cielito.

No one answered, and there was an expectant silence. A spectator who had come very near success jogged the elbow of his neighbor in seat 213, almost forcing him to rise.

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