The Persephone Book of Short Stories: The Lottery by Shirley Jackson

the-persephone-book-of-short-stories

The Lottery is Shirley Jackson’s best known short story. I know Shirley Jackson is renown horror/ mystery writer, but never having read her works before I think this was the best way for me to get introduced to her work.

The Lottery

Graphic adaptation of The Lottery by Miles Hyman, Shirley Jackson’s grandson (Image credit: The Huffington Post)

The focus of The Lottery is a small village of about 300 residents. The date is June 27, and the residents of this small town are getting ready for the annual ritual called “the lottery.” The village children stuff their pockets with stones before heading to the lottery, and there is a great pile of stones in one corner of the village square, but other than that nothing is out of place in this village. When the villagers gather just in time for the lottery, they all seem to be pretty excited about it.

Mr. Summers, who runs the lottery reminds the villagers of the rules – when he reads the names of the village households, the family heads should come and draw a slip of paper from an old black box. It more or less sounds like a usual lottery, except for the preference given to males in the process. There are some snide remarks made about Janey Dunbar drawing instead of Clyde Dunbar, Janey’s husband who is at home with a broken leg. Given the story was written in 1948 I was not surprised by the patriarchal attitude, but I did not expect anything that came after it!

I am not going to discuss the plot in detail further – The Lottery is a classic dystopian, and I do not want to spoil it for you. But it is a good story which reminds its readers how dangerous and bizarre the outcome could be if we choose to follow traditions blindly, just for the sake of preserving them!

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