Title: "The Lottery"
Author: Jackson, Shirley
Published: The New Yorker 1948-06-26
Length: short story
Keywords: bucolic, horror, town
Review by: Don Kuenz

Shirley Jackson



The Lottery

Synopsis and Review

Each year, at the beginning of summer, a bucolic town stages a lottery. It's an annual ritual as old as the town itself. Old timers swear that it ensures a bountiful harvest in the coming fall.

Wikipedia claims this is the best known work of Jackson. Regardless, it only recently became known to me. On the other hand, The Haunting's been known to me for most of my life. Jackson's the great grandmother of horror whose influence is widely felt.

With a few short sentences this story brings characters to life. My favorite characters are troublemaker Tess and obstinate Old Man Warner, a mean old sadistic patriarch.

Public school systems use this story in the classroom. As such, study guides appear on the Internet with intriguing questions such as:

Jackson gives interesting names to a number of her characters. Explain the possible allusions, irony or symbolism of some of these:

  • Delacroix
  • Graves
  • Summers
  • Bentham
  • Hutchinson
  • Warner
  • Martin

"The Lottery" actually belongs to a larger story-arc. Jessica Ferri puts the short story into context [1]:

"The Lottery" eventually became part of a larger collection of short fiction published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux, also in 1948, entitled, The Lottery, or, The Adventures of James Harris. Wait. James who? ...

You should read the whole collection in its entirety. In addition to the excellent "Lottery," there are several other fine stories that will absolutely chill you to the bone. And this James Harris appears in over half of them. One could argue that he is present, though perhaps not mentioned explicitly by name, in all of them.



© 2020 Don Kuenz