Material prepared/collated from other teachers by Avraham
Table of contents
on How to Utilize
BY SHIRLEY JACKSON
I generally teach it to my 10th grade native
speakers. First we start with a discussion on personal codes. I give them
3 case studies of kids who were involved with the law...petty theft, reckless
driving, and cheating. In groups we discuss the fairness of the punishments.
Then they write their views on this. Then we talk about the codes or laws
that govern a society and how they relate to our own personal codes of right
and wrong. ( Now that I think about it, this could be related to excerpts
from Animal Farm.)Then we read the story. I love watching their reactions
to the end. After discussing the story, they can write a letter as if they
were Bill Hutchinson to Mr. Summers, telling him that a change in the tradition
The Lottery is the best, but try to find
a short film adaptation --maybe the American Embassy library will have it.
I studied the story and saw the film in high school and it's one of those
experiences you never forget.
I've taught "The Lottery", and, in contrast
to all my expectations, Israeli students (or at least the 5 pointers I have
taught) find it ridiculous and boring rather than horrifying. It is true
however, that I did not do any 'mind-set' preparation before having them
read it. I'm doing it again this coming year, but with pre-reading discussion
and then I'll be wiser.
In general, there are a number of points
that need discussing with the class in order to prevent their dismissing
the story as some kind of 'goyish' nonsense. (not necessarily in the order
a- The 'tribal' nature of any small community.
b- The need that all human beings have to feel in 'control'
of what they
perceive to be an essentially hostile environment (universe).
c- The concepts of magic and superstition and their place
d- The concept that it can be acceptable to require the
sacrifice for the greater good.
e- 'stoning' as a method of sacrifice (punishment, etc..)
f- Man's ability (and need) to rationalise generally
All of the above can be easily connected
to our own society. Choose whatever examples you think work. If nothing
else, the discussion should be very lively.
By the way, there is a film which is very
loosely based onthe story which might be useful.
Before I tell you what I did with my class,
it's important to know that this class had been with me the previous year
and was "trained" (hate that word!) to observe many different elements in
a short story. For example, they knew to pay attention to names, relatively
lengthy descriptions (such as weather), vocabulary, and the like.
Anyway, I first put the word, "lottery"
on the board and asked them to free associate/brain storm. You will usually
get only positive associations. I asked them to try to predict what this
story could be about. Then I read part of the story to them- about half
of it. (I always read literature, articles, etc. to my classes.) We spoke
about whatever they
wanted in connection to the story. One of my students
said that she felt tension among all this peaceful description of nature...
I didn't let on to the strange twist.
The next lesson, I read the rest to them.
You could see where this leads you- let them lead the way- if they can't,
you could bring up examples of people, groups, and so on, that cling onto
traditions, or beliefs and/or are extremists... even when their belief,
etc, is illogical, no longer relevant, or whatever.
There are, by the way, so many directions
you could go with this story- peer pressure- the power of a mob, some people's
weakness with "getting into the act" etc.
You have to choose you class very carefully
and they have to trust you that they are reading something that is really
good so that they can get through it. It appears in Modern Short Stories,
Collier publ. and there are good questions at the end. Good luck.
Maida Nechushtan, Ort Afula and English Inspectorate
We spent some time discussing the "blind
faith" aspect. I approached the issue as the AUTHOR'S view towards
faith and tradition. We concluded that Shirley Jackson
did not respect blind faith; she probably considered tradition, faith, and
religion barbaric; and in her story she was making a very negative comment
about religion in general. The issue was not difficult to present (or accept)
since we didn't discuss whether we agreed, rather we analyzed the
author's point of view.
Sharon Nussbacher Note: Don't miss Sharon's worksheets
I HAVE USED IT A NUMBER OF TIMES, FOR "CULTURAL
RELATIVITY" AND ANTHROPOLOGICAL EXPLORATION. AFTER ALL, THIS WAS A RITE,
HOWEVER DASTARDLY THE OUTCOMES. SHIRLEY JACKSON WAS JEWISH --DID YOU KNOW?
VALERIE S. JAKAR, PHD.
I have found that the most effective way
of teaching the story is by
giving some background material on "small town life in
the U.S." and
then reading it in class, in two sessions to increase
(Often, pupils finish it on their own.)
Barbara Doron Note: Don't miss Barbara's excellent lesson
plans and worksheets!
Lesson plans by Barbara Doron.
The Lottery by Shirley Jackson
1. a. Large Cue Card on blackboard with
Blue-tac: The Lottery by Shirley Jackson
Small American town, at the end of June. (See Here)
b. Discuss the meaning of the word
Discuss the end of June (and the end of
the school year) in the North of the U.S.- (i.e. In many parts of the United
States, spring rather than summer [note that the women in the story wear
sweaters], cultural connotations: small town life in U.S.- everyone knows
everyone, personal experiences as a pupil at the end of the school year).
2. Give two selected passages from the
story (see here). Pupils read passages individually,
try to make predictions about the story and, in the end, try to guess what
the prize of the Lottery might be.
3. Give out vocabulary lists (see
here). Go over words and phrases. Fill in exercise (see
1. a. Vocabulary review. Cue Cards on
blackboard with words and phrases written largely enough so that pupils
can read. Teacher gives definitions. (“Find a word which means...”) (see
here) Pupils shout words.
b. Game. Pupils are given pages with words
scattered over the page in no particular order. (see here)
Teacher asks pupils to circle two words. The winner of the game is the pupil
who finishes the game without having circled words crossed out. (There is
almost never a winner) Teacher gives definitions, pupils must cross out
words which teacher defines. Teacher leaves two words undefined at the end
of the game.
2. Cue Cards on blackboard - (see
Present- Officials of the Lottery: Mr.
Summers, Mr. Graves
Paraphernalia: a shabby old black box,
slips of paper, one with an “X” on it.
Ritual: Swearing in of the official, official
must speak to each person
Past- Paraphernalia: Older black box, chips
of wood, one with an “X” marked on it.
Ritual: A recital or some official chant,
the official had to walk among the people (?)
Go over information.
3. Teacher begins reading story. Up to
“Everything clear?...” (No discussion after reading to maintain tension.)
4. Students put stories away. Cloze- Opening
paragraphs (see here)
1. Reminder of previous lesson, calling attention to
significant points. Done as a competition- Teacher against class- “Can you,
as a class, identify all of the circled words?”
Cue Cards (Put up on blackboard with Blue-tac-
Pupils jot down answers on scrap paper): What do the following words refer
to? (see here)
a. (It) could begin at 10 o’clock in the
morning and still be through in time to allow (them) to get home for noon
b. (They) began to gather, surveying their
own children speaking of planting and rain, tractors and taxes.
c. (They) came reluctantly, having to be
called four or five times.
d. (He) was a round-faced, jovial man and
he ran the coal business.
e. The postmaster, Mr. Graves, followed
him, carrying (?)...
f. (It) had been lost long ago.
g. (It) had been made with some pieces
of the one that had been constructed when the people settled down to make
a village here.
h. Because so much of (it) had been forgotten,
Mr. Summers had been successful in having slips of paper substituted for
chips of wood.
i. (He) used to stand just so when he said
or sang (it).
j. Now I’ll read (them) and the men come
up and take a paper out of the box.
2. Read up to “Bill Hutchinson’s got it...”
Ask for revised ideas about what the winner of the lottery receives. No
3. Vocabulary- Teacher shows word strips
with words written backwards and gives hints. Pupils shout words.
Vocabulary Worksheet- Practice in dealing
with dictionary definitions. Match the definition to its word. Work in pairs
to save time (see here).
1. The Lottery- Trivia
Class divided into two or three groups.
Must identify the following.
|*Who wrote the Lottery?
*classroom, teacher, books and reprimands
*planting and rain, tractors and taxes
*faded house dresses and sweaters
*Lottery in June...
*original paraphernalia for the lottery
*chips of wood
*lists to be made
*a ritual salute
*a tuneless chant
*a grown boy to do it
*living in caves and eating stewed chickweed
2. Guess meanings of the underlined words:
Cue Cards- (see here) Pupil writes his guess on scrap
paper. Answers at the end of the exercise.
a. The black box was splintered
badly along one side to show the original wood color.
b. There was a great deal of fussing
to be done before Mr. Summers declared the lottery open.
c. Part of the original ritual had been
allowed to lapse.
d. Mr. Summers seemed very proper and important
as he talked interminably to Mr. Graves and the Martins.
e. Mr. Adams went hastily back to
his place in the crowd, where he stoa little apart from his family.
f. Mrs. Dunbar greeted Mr. Summers gravely
and selected a slip of paper from the box.
3. Complete the story (without comment).
Homework: Think about what the story is
A. In small groups or pairs- Using the story
1. How many details can you give regarding
preparation for the lottery?
2. How many details can you give illustrating
how the author hints at what is going to occur?
3. How many details can you give regarding
the paraphernalia used in the lottery?
4. Why, according to the story, is the
lottery carried on?
5. “The Lottery” is obviously not a realistic
story. So, what points are being made?
B. Class discussion
*Preparing of paraphernalia for the lottery
the night before. Lists of heads of families made.
*Children assemble first and make a great
pile of stones.
*Families gather in the town square and
*Mr. Summers arrives in the square, carrying
the black wooden box. Mr. Graves follows carrying three-legged stool.
*Formal ceremony. Swearing in of the official
of the lottery. Names called out in alphabetical order. (Males are the representatives
of the families, unless there is no choice)
*Heads of households. Heads of families.
Members of families.
*Black box-very old. Made even before the
time of Old Man Warner, the oldest member of the community. Made with a
piece of the box which had preceded it.
*Slips of paper.
*Much of the ritual forgotten or discarded
: Swearing in remains, but once there had been a ritual salute. Now it was
only important to speak to each person.
Reason for the lottery: “Lottery in June,
corn be heavy soon.”
What is “The Lottery” about?
The lottery is kind of religious ritual
based on carrying out an act which will please the gods so that the agricultural
year will be fruitful. There have been real traditions of human sacrifice
in our past.
Dramatic build-up. Slowly but surely, the
feeling is developed that something threatening will happen.
Details which seem unimportant but which
take on significance by the end of the story.
Use of stones- From the beginning, the
author gives us all the information, but the reader is still horrified in
b. The story illustrates how difficult
it is to give up a tradition, even if it operates against the concepts of
Western morality. Examples: Drinking the “blood” of Christ. Shooting guns
as a sign of respect on Memorial Day.
c. The story shows how unquestioning we
are. We keep on routinely doing things which we know are wrong. (Physical
d. The human need for a scapegoat. In every
day life, we are always trying to find someone who is responsible. (endless
e. How delicate family loyalties are. One
of our hidden qualities and one which we are most ashamed of- When something
horrible happens, our first emotion is often relief that it hasn’t happened
f. How really brutal human beings are.
We are shocked at the brutal killing of one person. But we kill millions
for unclear reasons and justifications.
(The war in Viet Nam, Dropping the atomic
bomb on the Japanese. And, of course, the Holocaust. By the way, Shirley
Jackson once answered that The Lottery was written under the influence of
3. Question sheet (See Lottery8) given
out. Class is told to prepare answers to questions for test. Teacher will
circle seven (different) questions for each pupil. (Each pupil will have
a different test.) Answers must include all relevant information.
After tests are marked, any pupil will
be able to improve his mark by taking the test as many times as he wants,
answering a “random” seven questions from the list.
4. Vocabulary Wind-up
Teacher gives vocabulary in the contest
of a simple sentence.
Pupil writes meaning in Hebrew. At the
end of the exercise, teacher calls out a number and the name of a pupil.
Using their lists of Hebrew words, pupil must give English word.
Questions, Vocabulary, Cloze
Read the following sections from the story and answer
The morning of June 27th was
clear and sunny, with the fresh warmth of a full-summer day; the flowers
were blossoming profusely and the grass was richly green. The people of
the village began to gather in the square, between the post office and the
bank, around ten o’clock; in some towns there were so many people that the
lottery took two days and had to be started on June 26th, but
in this village, where there were only about three hundred people, the whole
lottery took less than two hours, so it could begin at ten o’clock in the
morning and still be through in time to allow the villagers to get home
for noon dinner.
Who participates in the lottery?
What do you think the atmosphere is on
the day of the lottery, according to the first paragraph of the story?
Soon the men began to gather, surveying
their own children, speaking of planting and rain, tractors and taxes. They
stood together, away from the pile of stones in the corner, and their jokes
were quiet and they smiled rather than laughed. The women, wearing faded
house dresses and sweaters, came shortly after their menfolk. They greeted
one another and exchanged bits of gossip as they went to join their husbands.
Soon the women, standing by their husbands, began to call their children,
and the children came reluctantly, having to be called four or five times.
What other details do you learn about the
town from this paragraph?
Guess what the possible prize for the Lottery
could be if it is held in all of the neighboring towns.
My guess is:
THE LOTTERY by Shirley Jackson
|out of date
lose your temper
a slip of paper
out of order
keep it up
make do with
|out of order
fill in for
get on with
give ---- a hand
1. 7. 13.
2. 8. 14.
3. 9. 15.
4. 10. 16.
5. 11. 17.
6. 12. 18.
The Lottery- Vocabulary
Fill in the blanks in the sentences with the following
words or expressions: out of date, lost his temper, shabby, inevitable,
a breakthrough, reprimand, a slip, paraphernalia, out of order, stain, liberty,
a breeze, assembled, fill in for, enthusiasm, reluctantly, swears in, keep
it up, make do with, fade, stuffed, get on with, give him a hand, exploitation.
1. The computer is ___________________ and we won’t be
able to use it.
2. I wrote his phone number on __________________ of paper
and now I can’t find it.
3. He __________________ and began to shout at the class.
4. He never loses his optimism, and does everything with
5. __________________ of the rain forests has contributed
to global warming.
6. The Chief Justice of the Supreme Court _________________
the new President of the United States.
7. He ________________ his bag full of food, for the two
8. We have all of the ____________________ necessary to
build a stage for the play.
9. His clothes were _________________ and he was ashamed
of his poverty.
10. A Palestinian state seems __________________ to a large
percentage of the Israeli population.
11. Records have become ____________________ and only disks
are sold these days.
12. The crowd ___________________ quietly and waited for
the President to begin his speech.
13. We don’t have a telephone and we have to ___________________
the public telephone on the corner.
THE LOTTERY by Shirley Jackson
out of date out of order a slip of paper
lose your temper a stain liberty
shabby inevitable a breakthrough assemble
a breeze paraphernalia swear in make do with
keep it up fade reprimand enthusiasm
exploitation give ... a hand to stuff assemble
fill in for get on with reluctantly
THE LOTTERY- CLOZE
The morning of June 27th was clear and
sunny, with the fresh warmth of a full-summer day; the flowers were blossoming
profusely and the grass was richly green. The people of the village began
to gather in the square, ____________________ the post office and the bank,
________________ ten o’clock; in some towns there ______________________
so many people that the lottery took two days and had to ____________________
started on June 26th, _____________________ in this village, ______________________
there were only about three hundred people, the _______________________
took less ____________________ two hours, so it could begin at ten o’clock
in the morning and still be ___________________ in time for noon dinner.
The children assembled first, of _____________________.
School was recently over for the summer, and the feeling of liberty sat
uneasily on most of ____________________; they tended to gather together
quietly for a ____________________________ before they broke into boisterous
play, and their talk ______________________ still of the classroom and the
teacher, of books and reprimands.
Soon the men began to gather, surveying
their own children, __________________ of planting and rain, tractors and
taxes. They stoodtogether, away _______________ the pile of stones in the
corner, and their jokes _________________ quiet and they smiled _______________
than laughed. The women, _____________________ faded house dresses and sweaters
came shortly ___________________ their menfolk. They greeted one ________________
and exchanged bits ________________ gossip as they went to _________________
THE LOTTERY by
Match the word and its definition.
|1. in bad repair or condition,
poorly dressed. _____
2. unavoidable, certain to happen _____
3. numerous small possessions, tools, instruments
4. strong feeling of admiration or interest
5. fill tightly with, press tightly into, fill
the carcass of an animal _____
6. gather together, collect, fit or put together
7. cause someone to take the oath of office
8. express disapproval (to a person) severely
and officially _____
9. cause to lose color, freshness or strength,
go slowly out of view _____
10. state of being free, right, or power to
decide for oneself what to do
11. slow to act because unwilling to _____
12. take the place of, substitute for _____
13. manage with something although it may not
be really adequate or satisfactory _____
14. a small piece of paper ______
15. selfish use for profit _____
16. make dirty, discolored or stained _____
b. fill in for
e. a slip of paper
n. swear in
o. make do with
Questions- The Lottery
1. When does the lottery take place?
2. Where does the lottery take place? Describe
3. How does the author, Shirley Jackson,
foreshadow what is to come?
4. What can you say about the people of
5. What paraphernalia is used to conduct
the lottery and what attempts are made to keep the traditional ceremony?
6. What role does Old Man Warner play?
7. The lottery is carried on by Mr. Summers,
who owns the coal company, and Mr. Graves, the postmaster. What do the names
and the objects hint at?
8. Usually a lottery is something good.
When do you begin to suspect that, in this case, no one wants to “win” the
9. How does the author build tension?
10. What is the “procedure” of the lottery?
11. What is the reaction of Old Man Warner
to the fact that in the north village “they’re talking of giving up the
12. What does the saying “Lottery in June,
corn be heavy soon” hint at?
13. What does the story imply about traditions
and ceremonies? Support your opinion from the story.
14. What does the story imply about religion?
Support your opinion from the story.
15. What does the story imply about family
loyalties? Support your opinion from the story.
16. What does the story imply about human
nature? Support your opinion from the story.
Cue cards A:
A small American town at the end of June
Cue cards B:
Get on with
A break through
A slip of paper
Out of order
Keep it up
Make do with
Liberty A breeze
fill in for
out of date
lose your temper
give ~ a hand
Cue cards C:
PRESENT: Officials of the lottery:
Paraphernalia: a shabby old black box, slips of paper, one with an "X"
Ritual: Swearing in of the official. Official must speak to each person.
PAST: Paraphernalia: Older black box, chips of wood. Ritual: A recital
or some official chant. The official had to walk among the people (?)
Cue cards D:
could begin at 10 o'clock in the morning and still be through in time
to allow them to get home in time for noon dinner.
They began to gather, surveying their own children,
speaking of planting and rain, tractors and taxes.
They came reluctantly, having to be called 4
or 5 times
He was a round- faced jovial man and he ran the
The postmaster, Mr. Graves, followed him, carrying
It had been lost long ago.
It had been made with some pieces of the one
that had been constructed when the people settled down to make a village
Because so much of it had been forgotten, Mr.
Summers had been succesful in having slips of paper substituted for
the wood chips.
He used to stand just so when he said or sang
Now I'll read them and the men come up and take
a paper out of....
Cue Cards E:
a) The black box was splintered badly along one side
to show the original wood color.
b) There was a great deal of fussing to be done before
Mr. Summers declared…
c) Part of the ritual had been allowed to lapse.
d) He seemed very proper and important as he talked interminably
to Mr. Graves and the Martins.
e) Mr. Adams went hastily back to his place in the
crowd, where he stood a little apart from his family.
f) Mrs. Dunbar greeted Mr. Summers gravely and selected
a slip of paper from the box.
Activities By: Sharon Nussbacher
by Shirley Jackson
beamed smiled very happily
boisterous noisy and active
clung held tightly
daintily delicately, in a lady-like fashion
lapse end without being renewed
lottery a contest in which tickets are distributed
or sold; the winning ticket or
tickets are selected in a chance drawing
petulantly with unreasonable irritation
by Shirley Jackson
By: Sharon Nussbacher
Answer any 8 questions.
1. In the third paragraph, what suggests that the lottery
is a serious event?
2. Who helps Mr. Summers set up the lottery? Why are the villagers
reluctant to help?
3. What paraphernalia is needed the lottery? How big do you
suppose the black box is?
4. What do Mr. Summers and Mr. Graves do the night before
5. What are the rules concerning people who can’t attend the
6. What signs are there of the people’s nervousness during
7. What arguments does Old Man Warner present for keeping
8. Normally someone "wins" a lottery, but that word is never
used in the story.
What expression is used instead?
9. A lottery winner is generally very pleased with his luck.
How does Bill Hutchinson react when he "gets it"? What is Tessie’s reaction?
Is her accusation fair?
10. What phrases suggest Mrs. Hutchinson’s extreme apprehension-
and her efforts to keep it under control?
11. In what order are the papers opened? How does the crowd
react as each is revealed?
12. What is the final step of the lottery? Who participates?
Answer two of the following essay questions.
Make sure that your answers are clear, and that the spelling and grammar
1. Of course such lotteries have never existed. Therefore
the story must be
presenting some sort of message. For example, it might be a satire of
religious rituals in modern times. Or it may be a commentary on the fragility
of family loyalties. What other possibilities occur to you? Which can be
best supported by evidence within the text?
2. The lottery is run by two men named Graves and Summers.
significance can you see in the choice of names? Do any other names in
the story have interesting connotations?
3. Trace the changes in Tessie Hutchinson’s attitude in the
course of the
story. What do these changes suggest about a possible theme for the
4. The story is full of details about small-town life, for
example, the children’s
play before the lottery begins. What other details suggest a peaceful rural
setting? Describe the contrast between the setting and characters and the
By: Sharon Nussbacher
The Lottery, by Shirley Jackson
By: Sharon Nussbacher
This test consists of two questions. Each
is worth 50 points.
Each question must have 5 answers. Every
answer or example you present will be worth 10 points. Points will be deducted
if you do not answer in complete sentences, if you have spelling mistakes,
if you have grammatical errors, or if you do not use proper punctuation.
You may refer to the text.
Irony is used when the author contrasts what is said or described
with what is really meant. In The Lottery we have an example of an
1. How does the author increase the horror of the story by
using irony? How does she fool the reader?
2. What hints does the author give us that all is not what
it appears to be?
Dear ETNI teachers,
The following is information I collected
from various Internet sites. If you need more, I advise you to do your own
search for "Shirley Jackson The Lottery".
Shirley Jackson (aka Mrs. Stanley Hyman)
( 1916-1965 )
" The number of people who expected
Mrs Hutchinson to win a Bendix washer would amaze you." (Shirley Jackson)
Complete text Lottery: http://newark.rutgers.edu/~lcrew/lottery.html
Information about Shirley Jackson: http://www.kutztown.edu/~reagan/jackson.html
The Lottery is a story of mediaeval customs
and how misplaced they are within modern society. The story opens with the
entire population of the small town gathering in the town square in preparation
for the lottery. Once all the townspeople arrived the lottery was begun
with the drawing of slips of paper. The winner of the lottery turns out
to be Mrs. Hutchinson, a wife and mother to five children. The story closes
with her being stoned by her neighbors and friends. The main object of The
Lottery is the action of the lottery itself and perhaps the slips of paper.
The actions that make the story are all connected to the preparation for,
drawing of, and consequences of the lottery. Mr. Summers treats the lottery
with cold precision as if this duty was as normal as all the other duties
he performs for the town. The townspeople respect the lottery and actually
appear to fear it ever so slightly. Mrs. Hutchinson when faced with the
possibility of winning the drawing panics and tries everything she can think
of to decrease her chance of winning or avoiding it altogether. Mrs. Hutchinson
is the main female character of the story and is probably the strongest
example of a weak, powerless, scared woman in all the stories we reviewed.
She is the last to show for the drawing, she disputes the results of both
drawings once completed, and she makes every attempt to lower her chance
of winning by drawing her married daughters into her familie's drawing.
Mrs. Hutchinson shows a complete lack of inner strength and reveals her
cowardice and uncaring relationship as shown in her actions. The underlying
current of evil would have to be the actual barbarism inherent in the lottery
itself. The idea of stoning a person to death for any reason in our society
is cruel and unusual punishment and sickening to most. The fact that the
stoning is not for any crime but for tradition makes it all that more unpalatable.
The apparent disdain expressed by the villagers is also quite disturbing
in that they treat the lottery as a normal daily event taking no time to
fully appreciate the actions they are about to perform. Shirley Jackson
continues her story telling tradition by leaving the reader with several
questions on their mind as the story concludes. Does Mrs. Hutchinson get
stoned to death? Does the annual practice of stoning continue? What would
happen to this town if the lottery was stopped?
In American Novelists Since World War II,
Martha Ragland states that Mrs. Jackson's stories reflect her "pessimistic
view of human nature" (161). We believe that this idea is what is responsible
for her undercurrent of evil in each story. Perhaps Shirley Jackson's view
of the world around her, colors her impression of mankind and as such reflects
as a constant evil presence within her stories.
Summary and Commentary taken from: http://erau.db.erau.edu/~stollg/text4.html
Commentary: By JONATHAN LETHEM
A small New England
town, blandly familiar in every way, sleepwalking its way through ritual
murder. Likely the most controversial piece of fiction ever published in
the New Yorker, resulting in hundreds of canceled
subscriptions, later adapted for
television, radio and ballet, it now resides in the popular imagination
as an archetype. It can be as difficult to persuade readers that the story
is just one sheaf in the portfolio of one of this century's most luminous
and strange American writers as it is to explain that the town portrayed
in "The Lottery" is a real one.I know it is, because I lived there. North
Bennington is a tiny village less than a mile from the otherwise isolated
Bennington campus in Vermont. Shirley Jackson was married to Stanley Edgar
Hyman, a literary critic who taught at the college. And she spent her life
in the town, raising four children, presiding over a chaotic household that
was host to Ralph Ellison, Bernard Malamud and Howard Nemerov, and at times
going quietly crazy, always, with the rigor of one who has found her born
task. Six novels, two bestselling volumes of deceptively sunny family memoirs
and countless stories before her death at 48, in 1965.
The town hasn't changed,
or at least it hadn't by the mid- eighties,
when I was a student at the school.
A handful of the townspeople portrayed in thin disguise in Jackson's novels
and stories were still around. I knew the square where "The Lottery" takes
place. It was Jackson's fate, as a faculty wife and an eccentric newcomer
in a staid, insular village, to absorb the reflexive antisemitism and anti-intellectualism
felt by the townspeople toward the college. She and her children were accessible
in a way that her husband and his colleagues and students, who spent their
days on the campus, were not.Jackson was in many senses already two people
when she arrived in Vermont. One was a turgid, fearful ugly-duckling, permanently
cowed by the severity of her upbringing by a suburban mother obsessed with
appearances. This half of Jackson
was a character she brought brilliantly to life in her stories and novels
from the beginning:the shy girl, whose identity slips all too easily from
its foundations. The other half of Jackson was the expulsive iconoclast,brought
out of her shell by marriage to Hyman himself a garrulous egoist very much
in the tradition of Jewish '50's New York intellectuals and by the visceral
shock of mothering a quartet of
noisy, demanding babies. This second
Shirley Jackson dedicated herself to rejecting her mother's sense of propriety,
drank and smoked and fed to buttery excess directly to blame for her and
her husband's early deaths dabbled in magic and voodoo, and interfered loudly
when she thought the provincial Vermont schools were doing an injustice
to her talented children. This was the Shirley Jackson that the town feared,
resented and, depending on whose version you believe, occasionally persecuted.
The hostility of the
villagers further shaped her psyche, and her art; the process eventually
redoubled so the latter fed the former. After the enormous success of "The
Lottery," a legend arose in town,almost certainly false, that Jackson had
been pelted with stones by schoolchildren one day, then gone home and written
the story. The real crisis came near the end of her life, resulting in a
period of agoraphobia and psychosis; she wrote her way through it in "We
Have Always Lived in the Castle." In that novel, Jackson brilliantly isolates
the two aspects in her psyche into two odd, damaged sisters: one hypersensitive
and afraid, unable to leave the house,
the other a sort of squalid demon
prankster who may or may not have
murdered the rest of her family for
her fragile sister's sake. For me,
it is that unique and dreamlike book,
rather than "The Lottery," that stands as her masterpiece.
Some comments taken from countless e-mails at the discussion
group on Jackson's Lottery: http://www.researchpaper.com/forums/English_and_Literature/
Names are symbols:
Old Man Warner--warns the townspeople of
the danger of dropping the lottery; Family name of Delacroix in French means
"of the cross," however, Mrs. Delacroix was one of the least Christian townspeople
since she piks up the biggest stone to cast at Tessie.
"Mr. Graves." Graves denotes death. It
is not only a symbolism but a foreshadowing of what was to come. Also "Mrs.
Hutchinson" was a symbolic name. The name of Jackson's victim links her
to Anne Hutchinson, whose Antinomian (against men) beliefs, found to be
heretical by the Puritan hierarchy, resulted in her banishment from Massachusetts
in 1638. While Tessie Hutchinson is no spiritual rebel, to be sure, Jackson's
allusion to Anne Hutchinson reinforces her suggestions of a rebellion lurking
within the women of her imaginary village. Anne Hutchinson was basically
"thrown out" of Puritan society because she went against the teachings of
the church by holding her own meetings in the home.
Joe Summers, the name represents: a new
time, a fresh start: change.
2 most important characters are Mr. Summers and Mr. Graves
because they both have really important jobs in the story, Postmaster and
head of coal co. Summers was not conservative however, Graves was, lots
of comparisons in the story and in their names.
In regard to the black box in "The Lottery," the condition
is also symbolic. The color black denotes death, and the box itself is enclosed,
thus indicating that whoever is chosen will be closed in by the crowd. The
box is old; the paint is peeling, and the wood is splintered. This condition
reflects the fading of the tradition in other villages as well as the villager's
questioning of the lottery in this village. The three-legged stool is symbolic
of the trinity--the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Concerning the
date June 27: June 27 falls between the Summer Soltice (June 21) and Independece
day (July 4)......Paganism and democracy (Date Ref: The Explicator, Vol
52, (#4) Summer 1994, Page 242 by Jay A. Yarmove;)