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Marxist Critism of "The Lottery"

“It isn’t fair,” she said (Jackson). The Lottery by Shirley Jackson was written in 1948. The short story was not widely accepted at first. But when asked to explain what the true meaning behind this work she simply stated “Explaining just what I had hoped the story to say is very difficult. I suppose, I hoped, by setting a particularly brutal ancient rite in the present and in my own village to shock the story's readers with a graphic dramatization of the pointless violence and general inhumanity in their own lives” (Shirley Jackson). Some would see this as Jackson running away from the truth. And that truth was: this story was not so good. But to her, she most likely meant to have the reader find the true meaning behind this story for them themselves. In the short story The Lottery, Jackson shows how positions of power are important to the characters that possess them and have consequences for other characters.

One way to analyze the positions of power in The Lottery is thorough the positions of power in the society. One example of this would be the power that Mr. Summers has over the village. Mr. Summers in the short is a very wealthy and powerful man that Jackson hints about. Mr. Summers has some much power that “The lottery was conducted—as were the square dances, the teen club, and the Halloween program—by Mr. Summers…” (Jackson). Because he runs all of these programs, he holds all of this power over the town. And because the town needs him to run all of these programs, no one will get rid of him. Another example would be the postmaster, Mr. Graves. We can infer that because “The postmaster, Mr. Graves, followed him, carrying a three-legged stool, and the stool was put in the center of the square and Mr. Summers set the black box down on it (Jackson).” That Mr. Graves hangs around with Mr. Summers to simply feed off of the power that Mr. Summers has. Because of this fact, Mr. Graves was also immune to the lottery, never having to risk putting his name up. Therefore he never felt that anxiety of that you might not go home that night.

Another way to analyze The Lottery is how those positions of powers have consequences for other characters. One example of this would be the swearing in of Mr. Summers. When the lottery first begins “There was a proper swearing- in of Mr. Summers by the postmaster, as the official of the lottery…” (Jackson) This shows that because is he sworn in as the official, if he were to get the black dot, he could easily say that he can’t be sacrificed because he runs the whole show. If the people were to stone him to death, where would the power over the town that Mr. Summers had go to? Some would state the obvious: Mr. Graves. But would there really be a simply quiet shift in power or would there be a fight for that power? Realist state the latter will always beat out the idealist. Another example would be of what happens at the end of the story: the stoning. Even though Mrs. Hutchison did nothing wrong, she still died. Everyone got in on it, even “The children had stones already. And someone gave little Davy Hutchinson a few pebbles.” (Jackson). Because of Mr. Summer’s power of conducting the lottery, he holds the power to kill someone, though not directly. He could have gone against the old tradition and saved her, but he did not. As Mrs. Hutchinson said in her own words “It isn’t fair, it isn’t right,” (Jackson).

In conclusion the short story, The Lottery, Jackson shows how positions of power are important to the characters that possess them and have consequences for other characters. This story was simply about how a small village gambles with their lives in order to appease others. This story is about how a town prepares for the execution of one of their neighbors, the drawing of that person’s name, and their untimely death.

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