The Lottery and Other Stories

Shirley Jackson's The Lottery 11th Grade

Shirley Jackson's 1948 short story 'The Lottery' is an exploration of what it means to belong, or not belong, to a culture and set of traditions. Jackson sets the scene comfortably, describing a traditional little village from the 1920s to the 1940s, where everyone knows everyone, children play together, women and men talk in a naturally segregated manner due to the differences in their daily lives. Men, in this traditional world, hold political power. It may not be ideal for a modern reader like you or me; still, to the average reader in the late 1940s and early 1950s, fresh out of two world wars and presented with a steadily stabilizing economy, this peaceful little conservative village would be considered idyllic. And that was the point of it. Although Shirley Jackson outlines what for many of her readers would have been a perfect life, she uses it to draw sharp contrasts between our apparent civility and the barbarism of unquestioned cultural traditions.

The culture after WWII was one that Americans were proud of. We today see ourselves as a society that has surpassed racial segregation, the oppression of women and the criminalization of homosexuality. And we are proud of ourselves for this: we have achieved much and can...

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