“The Lottery” a Short Story by Shirley Jackson Essay

April 8, 2022 by Essay Writer


Shirley Jackson’s “the Lottery” was first published in the June 26, 1948 edition of the New Yorker, resulting in a deluge of letters beings sent to the publisher from various readers who were either outraged by the content or curious as to what the story actually meant. When going over the reactions of the various individuals who wrote to the New Yorker regarding the story, their main reasoning for sending letters to the publication was simply due to the relative “strangeness” of the story (Franklin 1).

It was something that most of the readers had not encountered before, and due to the content, it was even considered “shocking.” Going over the statements of the readers, their reactions are not all that surprising given the relatively conservative nature of American literature at the time. Compared to the present, themes related to sexuality, abhorrent behavior, or outright murder without sufficient justification were simply not common back then and, as such, this ensured that when “the Lottery” was published, it was almost certain that it would create “waves” so to speak.

It is also important to note that since the story was published in the New Yorker, one of the most widely circulated publications during the 1940s; this ensured that it would reach a wide audience of potential readers. In the end, many readers threatened to cancel their subscriptions over what they described as a “deplorable piece of literature” and many did, however, a vast majority of the responses were simply empty threats with many readers simply being interested in the background behind the story’s creation.

When it came to misconceptions surrounding the story, there were some that believed that it was a piece of the social commentary of an event that actually occurred. On the other end of the spectrum, there were people who thought it was a story of blatant murder. While such misconceptions are understandable, given the lack of commentary by the magazine and the author, the fact remains that the story seems to be more of a form of social commentary.

The opinion of the Story

When going over the story and the premise of characters continuing a barbaric tradition, it seemingly appears to be a critique of old traditions, practices, and beliefs that society continues to follow at present despite the fact that there is little in the way of sufficient justification as to why they should still be in use. For instance, many people believe that wearing a tie with a suit is a mark of professionalism, yet, they fail to answer why exactly this practice makes a person more professional.

The exact origins behind the use of ties in suits are rather vague, and just because a person wears a tie with a suit does not make them any better, from an intellectual standpoint, than a person who does not. This particular example is similar to the way in which the townspeople apparently forgot the exact origin of the lottery, what it was for, and why they had to do it. It is from this perspective that this paper believes that “the Lottery” acts as a form of social commentary wherein it points out that there are many practices today that continue to be implemented despite the fact that the original reason why they were put in effect in the first place has been lost to time.

Works Cited

Franklin, Ruth. “The Lottery Letters.” The New Yorker. The New Yorker, 2013. Web.

Read more