The Lottery by Shirley Jackson

November 22, 2011
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“The people had done it so many times that they only half listened to the directions: most of them were quiet, wetting their lips, not looking around.” (Jackson). Shirley Jackson was born in San Francisco on December 14, 1916, and spent her childhood in nearby Burlingame, California, where she began writing poetry and short stories as a young teenager. Her family moved east when she was seventeen, and she attended the University of Rochester. After a year, in 1936, she withdrew and spent a year at home practicing writing, producing a minimum of a thousand words a day. The Lottery is about a town’s tradition of conducting an annual lottery where everyone living in the town must attend. The town’s lottery is not the normal lottery where you win money, if you win the lottery you get stoned to death by the whole town. 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, the position of power is a very important key in The Lottery. The narrator says, “… by Mr. Summers, who had time and energy to devote to civic activities. He was a round-faced; jovial man and he ran the coal business.” (Jackson). Mr. Summers was the head of the town, financial wise. He ran a coal business indicating that he was rather wealthy. Having a position of power allowed him to control the lottery. The narrator says, “Mr. Summers was very good at all this; in his clean white shirt and blue jeans… he seemed very proper and important as he talked interminably to Mr. Graves and the Martins.” (Jackson). Mr. Summers was chosen by the people to be in charge of the lottery. Mr. Summers himself writes down the names on the slips that are put in the black box. Because he is a wealthy, he is able to control the most important event that takes place within the town.

As the result, the character that do not posses power in The Lottery are not at liberty to refuse being killed. Tessie says, “You didn’t give him time enough to take any paper he wanted. I saw you. It wasn’t fair!” (Jackson). Tessie, being of lower social class standing. Insists that her husband did not get enough time to draw his paper. Her request to draw again is denied, because Mr. Summers insisted that everyone has enough time to draw their slips. Mr. Summers says, “All right, folks. Mr. Summers said. Let’s finish quickly.” (Jackson). Tessie was stones to death because she was chosen in a lottery that is run by Mr. Summers. Tessie does not get to argue the choice that has been made; she is only to be quiet while others essentially murder her. Tessie is in no position of power, and the consequence of that is that she is chosen to be stoned to death. Not even her family members argue, and her son is given a few pebbles to throw at his mother.

In conclusion, in the short story The Lottery, Shirley Jackson shows how positions of power are important to the characters that possess them and have consequences for other characters. The Lottery shows anyone who reads it that social class is a big deal to some people and some people take where they belong in society to heart. Where a person is socially may mean nothing to someone but could mean the world to another. Society has the potent to kill the people living in the mayhem of its evil plan.





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