Lottery by Shirley Jackson Is a Masterful Term Paper

Excerpt from Term Paper :

Lottery by Shirley Jackson is a masterful short story that tricks its reader initially, and later surprises the reader into the understanding of the dynamics of scapegoat. The value of the book lies in its narrative technique that engages the reader dramatically in the textual process in such a manner that the reader participates in the act of scapegoat by means of identification with the townspeople (Lenemaja 1975).

Simultaneously, when the reader comes to this realization, he/she can be struck by the hazard of premature conclusion on the interpretation of the story. No other writer other than Jackson could have more skillfully demonstrated the pitfalls of pattern recognition in medicine as discussed in the story (Lenemaja 1975). In addition, it manipulates through its text, which ultimately identifies with Mrs. Hutchinson's cry, "It isn't fair," due to which the resulting feelings of anger reproduce the ordinary feeling of anger at one own self and the patient when one comes upon an unexpected diagnosis, progress, or a conclusion (Lenemaja 1975).

The village as described by the author where the lottery takes place has a coal business, a bank, a grocery store, a post office, schools; also where its women are housewives rather than field workers; while its men talk of tractors and taxes. However, most importantly, the author has exhibited the village in the same socio-economic stratification that many people take for granted in a modern, capitalist society.

Thesis Statement

After giving a brief introduction on what the lottery is all about, the paper provides an overview of the book detailing the portrayal of the book. Its setting and what influence and affect it had on the villagers. Following the overview, what logic was behind the Lottery and what actually author has tried to message his readers is discussed. It also provides critical arguments and attitudes highlighted by the author. The paper than finally gives a brief comparison of the lottery with Paul's case written by Willa Cather.


The author Jackson portrays an average New England village with average citizens who are occupied in a deadly ritual: the yearly selection of a sacrificial victim by means of a public lottery, which has been done in such a quite deviously manner by the author that it was not until well along in the tale does the reader guess that the "winner" will be stoned to death by the rest of the villagers (Lenemaja 1975).

However, the author has shown that the democratic illusion of the lottery is an ideological effect that puts off the villagers from condemning the class structure of their society. This illusion, nevertheless, was not solitarily responsible for the complete vigor of the lottery over the town (Lenemaja 1975). It, the lottery, does also ensure a village work ethic that diverts the villagers' concentration from the division of labor that leaves Mr. Summers empowered in his coal company agency and keeps women ineffective in their quarters (Lenemaja 1975).

Argument and Analysis

Sir James Frazer's "the Golden Bough" scrutinizes and surveys the cross-cultural and transcultural temperament of scapegoat; and Rene Girard skillfully and ornately lays base to the composition in "Le bouc emissaire." With particulars lying in the departments of reader response theories, hermeneutics and narratology, "The Lottery" also functions agreeably to exemplify the position of fictional premise in literature and medicine (Stanley, 1966).

The way in which Jackson's mythical styles adds tension in other stories the same had been already expressed by the narrative in a very well explained manner in "The Lottery." The reader may get the thought that there may be a very thrilling and perhaps an appalling and amazing end might lay in store as the writer gives instances of places in the book itself (Stanley, 1966).

However, the two common yet vital approaches are exposed in "The Lottery": primarily, that it is about man's ineffaceable ancient aggressivity, or what Cleanth Brooks and Robert Penn Warren call his "all-too-human tendency to seize upon a scapegoat"; subsequently, that it depicts man's oppression by, in Helen Nebeker's words, "unexamined and unchanging traditions which he could easily change if he only realized their implications." The connection, however, between cautious investigations of the abundance of communal aspect and the lottery to the normal societal customs of the town is what seems to be absent from both of these attitudes (Stanley, 1966).

Furthermore, no mere "unreasonable" tradition has been given in the lottery but rather it is an ideological mechanism that provides to support the village's hierarchical social order by means of instilling the villages with an unaware terror that if they oppose this order they might be chosen in the next lottery (Stanley, 1966).

In this process of generating this fear, it at the same time also reproduces the ideology essential for the easy functioning of that social order, regardless of its intrinsic injustice and discrimination. What surprises in the work of this author is that he has never been identified as a Marxist and yet shown that such a social order and ideology are essentially capitalist (Stanley, 1966).

Here the lottery at one stage appears to be a contemporary version of a placing ritual that might once have made the villagers for the collective work that has been required and needed to produce a harvest, rituals which not necessarily engage human sacrifice. For instance, in the middle of the story, Old Man Warner emerged as an supporter for this work ethic when he recalled an old village proverb, "Lottery in June, corn be heavy soon" as said by him (Shirley, 1982. p. 297).

Thus, as enchanted as Warner's saying may seem, it did establish an unconscious and unspoken relationship between the lottery and work, which was exposed by the entirety of his response when it was told that other villages also considered doing away with the lottery:

Pack of crazy fools... listening to young folks, nothing's good enough for them.

Next thing you know, they'll be wanting to go back to living in caves, nobody work any more, live that way for a while. Used to be a saying about 'Lottery in June, corn be heavy soon.' First thing you know, we'd all be eating stewed chickweed and acorns.

There's always been a lottery." (Shirley, 1982. p. 297)

Further at the very instant when the lottery's victim is exposed, the author Jackson added a secondary section in which there is the blackness called as evil of Mr. Summers' coal business which is being transferred to the black dot on the lottery slip (Stanley, 1966). Again at this stage, evil in Jackson's content is related to a disorder that has been supported by capitalism, in the material organization of modern society. However, the author was not able to explain in depth as to how the evil of the lottery is joined to this disorder of capitalist social organization (Stanley, 1966).

It can be argued and sketched as five major points to this question. Firstly, the lottery's set of laws for participation revealed and codified a rigid social hierarchy based upon an unfair social division of labor. Secondly, the fact that everybody participates in the lottery and recognize deliberately that its result is pure chance that gives it a certain "democratic" feeling that vague its first codifying function (Stanley, 1966).

Thirdly, it can be said that the villagers believe unconsciously that their obligation to a work ethic would allow them some magical protection from being selected. Fourth, this work ethic stops them from considering that the lottery's real purpose is not to convince or influence work as such but to actually strengthen an undemocratic social division of labor (Stanley, 1966).

Lastly, arguing through these points, it may be easier to comprehend as to how Jackson's choice of Tessie Hutchinson (Scapegoat character) as the lottery's victim or in other words scapegoat revealed the lottery to be an ideological mechanism that served to resolve the average villager's intense, incoherent dissatisfaction with the social order in which he lived by directing it into anger aimed at the victims of that social order (Stanley, 1966).

However, the most possible depressing thing about The Lottery is how soon Jackson represented the blindness as beginning by presenting an election as a random lottery, giving an image of the village's blindness to its own motives (Stanley, 1966).

Paul's Case

The short story "Paul's Case" written by Willa Cather around 1905 as compare to the Lottery is an evidence to the reality of youthful dissatisfactions and the general failure of families to comprehend and of schools to be cooperative. The book was written when Willa was living in Pittsburgh; and was her only one of stories with that city as a background (Bernardo, storybites).

This is one of the most anthologized of all of Cather's writing which was the first to be adapted for television called "study in temperament." The story revealed around the main or the title character Paul who has been shown as a misfit and was unable to accept the dull reality of his daily life…

Sources Used in Documents:

Works Cited

Lenemaja, Friedman (1975). Shirley Jackson. Boston: Twayne Publishers

Stanley, Edgar Hyman (1966), ed. The Magic of Shirley Jackson. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Shirley, Jackson (1982). The Lottery and Other Stories. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Bernardo, Karen. Story Bites. Willa Cather's Paul's Case.

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