Marxist Criticism on The Lottery by Shirley Jackson

November 22, 2011
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“The lottery was conducted—as were the square dances, the teen club, the Halloween program—by Mr. Summers, who had time and energy to devote to civic activities” (Jackson). “Shirley Jackson was an American author. A popular writer in her time, her work has received increasing attention from literary critics in recent years. She has influenced such writers as Neil Gaiman, Stephen King, Nigel Kneale and Richard Matheson. She is best known for the short story "The Lottery," which suggests a secret, sinister underside to bucolic small-town America. In her critical biography of Jackson, Lenemaja Friedman notes that when "The Lottery" was published in the June 26, 1948, issue of The New Yorker, it received a response that "no New Yorker story had ever received." Hundreds of letters poured in that were characterized by, as Jackson put it, "bewilderment, speculation and old-fashioned abuse"(Shirley Jackson). 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.
To begin with, in the story, The Lottery, it states “He was a round-faced, jovial man and he ran the coal business, and people were sorry for him because he had no children and his wife was a scold” (Jackson). He ran his own business and he was in charge of the lottery and had a lot of power and control. Everyone in the town listened to him and followed him. “Mr. Summers was very good at all this; in his clean white shirt and blue jeans, with one hand resting carelessly on the black box, he seemed very proper and important as he talked interminably to Mr. Graves and the Martins” (Jackson). He seemed to be well respected in the town. The people in town listened to him mostly because they were afraid of him. Mr. Summers was known in the town because he was over many activities. The people in the town looked at Mr. Summers as if he were superior.
Furthermore, in the story, The Lottery, it states “The villagers kept their distance, leaving a space between themselves and the stool, and when Mr. Summers said “Some of you fellows want to give me a hand?” there was a hesitation before two men. Mr. Martin and his oldest son, Baxter, came forward to hold the box steady on the stool while Mr. Summers stirred up the papers inside it” (Jackson). Some people were afraid to touch the black box. They are even willing to give up their family members when they were up to be stoned to death. Before this began people had to be sworn in by Mr. Summers. The lottery was something that took place every year but it seemed everyone got happier and happier every year. “Although the villagers had forgotten the ritual and lost the original black box, they still remembered to use stones. The pile of stones the boys had made earlier was ready; there were stones on the ground with the blowing scraps of paper that had come out of the box Delacroix selected a stone so large she had to pick it up with both hands and turned to Mrs. Dunbar” (Jackson). The stones play an important role in the short story because that is what the villagers used to stone Tessie to death. The stones basically represented death in the story.
All in all, using Marxist criticism, the reader can analyze short story The Lottery, Jackson shows how positions of power are important to the characters that possess them and have consequences for other characters. Mr. Summers had a lot to do with the minds of the people in the town, he basically had control over everyone. People can learn that no one should be treated superior to someone else. They treated Mr. Summers as if he was a higher being or someone that was better than everyone else. No one is better than anyone else.





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