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The Lottery

by Shirley Jackson

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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1,1654317,025 (3.99)1 / 23
The people of a village perform their annual lottery, with startling consequences for the recipient of the one paper with the black spot.

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» See also 23 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 39 (next | show all)
This story is a good selection for working with young adults for its themes about the Cost of Conformity, and the Dangers of Blindly Following a Tradition. For comprehension and discussion questions, as well as related media and paired texts, check out commonlit.org. ( )
  Chrissylou62 | Apr 11, 2024 |
I love Shirley Jackson ( )
  highlandcow | Mar 13, 2024 |
There is an old Balkan proverb that roughly translated goes something like this: It would be better for the village to perish, than for the old traditions to be forgotten.
While I have always taken that as an ironic statement with a very clear message, I'm well aware that for many it is a literal truth.

This story talks about the importance of rituals, even when they lose meaning over time and the human acceptance and tolerance of violence, as long as it is directed towards someone else. I found it very interesting that Jackson uses stoning as the method for "rewarding the lottery winner". Since this was hinted at early on at the beginning of the story, there was absolutely no surprise for me in this. I expected some kind of a twist, but it happened exactly as I thought it would.

Yes, this was written in 1948, and we have grown collectively ever since, so the narrative feels very simple, familiar and understated. It is not a new motif. Which reminds me, Ursula Le Guin wrote a story with a similar vibe (Those Who Walk Away from Omelas).

It is impossible to read this without thinking about the ancient rituals and human sacrifices they often included. Stravinsky's masterpiece ballet The Rite of Spring is one of them. These are different than the horror movies like Wickerman or Midsomer because the victims in The Lottery and The Rite of Spring spend their whole lives inside these systems, familiar with the outcome.

However, the chosen woman in The Lottery does not share the same kind of desperate euphoria as the girl in the ballet who dances herself to death so that the fields would yield a fruitful harvest for her community. The meaning is present in Le Guin's Omelas as well.

In Jackson's lottery town, the ritual lost its meaning, it is done only because it has been done for so long. There is no hope, faith or promise of redemption in it. It only hurts people who go through it.
In that sense, The Lottery reads as an interesting cautionary tale.
( )
  ZeljanaMaricFerli | Mar 4, 2024 |
As someone who wasn't particularly fond of The Haunting of Hill House, I had my reservations about reading more "horror" by the same author. In this case, however, Shirley Jackson didn't disappoint.

The Lottery was a short read, and unlike most horror takes place in broad daylight surrounded by supposedly friendly faces (or at least, faces who were friendly a few minutes ago). I strongly admire anyone that can take such circumstances and make them not just unsettling, but horrifying. It's not at all easy to do, and yet the second a stone is placed in the eager hands of the soon-to-be-victim's young son, that's exactly what I felt. It's one thing to view such a morbid "lottery" with such a solemn atmosphere as The Hunger Games... it's another entirely when everyone involved in the execution takes up the job so readily. Stories like these remind us how the familiar can sometimes be the most menacing enemy of all. ( )
  Spyder227 | Feb 5, 2024 |

Easily the most recognizable, widely read work of folk horror in literature, Jackson’s story (published in 1948) begins in the folksy tone of any other quick pastoral sketch, with a group of recognizable characters getting ready for their annual town ritual involving an old box, a three-legged stool, and a random drawing of slips of paper. But the beauty of the tale lies in what isn’t explained, and all the unanswered questions that are continually raised by the whole affair, soon revealed to be quite sordid indeed. The Lottery's display of violence and inhumanity shocks us because the prose is so outwardly pleasant. The characters seem innocent and to be upstanding citizens. What makes this so terrifying is that they give into an ancient ritual of sacrifice and murder due to mimetic desire. Shirley's story suggests that the desires of the collective whole (however irrational those desires may be) trump those of the individual.

A terrifying exercise in group think and a classic example of a perfect short story. ( )
  ryantlaferney87 | Dec 8, 2023 |
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The story earned rave reviews from editors and critics though readers weren’t as pleased. Quickly becoming the most controversial story ever published by The New Yorker, readers not only canceled subscriptions but sent hate mail to the author via the magazine.

» Add other authors (10 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Shirley Jacksonprimary authorall editionscalculated
Brooks, WalterCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Morley, ChristopherAfterwordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed

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The morning of June 27th was clear and sunny, with the fresh warmth of a full-summer day; the flowers were blossoming profusely and the grass was richly green.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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This is a short story. DO NOT combine with the collection with the same title.
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The people of a village perform their annual lottery, with startling consequences for the recipient of the one paper with the black spot.

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