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The Lottery by Shirley Jackson - Book Report/Review Example

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Shirley Jackson's short story The Lottery, which was first published in The New Yorker during the summer of 1948, describes a ritualistic human sacrifice which was presumably conducted annually in a village of a little over three-hundred inhabitants. The rationale for the existence of the village lottery is summarized in the following words: "Lottery in June, corn be heavy soon." The lottery culminates in a stoning to death of the selected sacrificial victim by the other members of the village…
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The Lottery by Shirley Jackson
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Download file to see previous pages It is interesting to note how Jackson builds up the suspense and remarkably retains it. Up to the last six paragraphs the story is written in the manner of a realistic transcript of small-town experience: the day is a special one, true, but the occasion is familiar, and for the most part the people are presented as going through a well-known routine. We see them as decent, friendly, neighborly people; in fact, most of the details could be used just as they are in a conventional picture of idyllic small-town life. Things are easily, simply told, as if in a factual chronicle. Any hints of inner turmoil are merely suggested by the actions of the characters: a nervous lilt of the voice, a shuffling of feet, a whisper when normal speech would be appropriate. On the other hand, the description of outward actions and physical setting is direct and, when viewed in retrospect, contributes directly to the macabre climax toward which the story moves. Suddenly, in the midst of this ordinary, matter-of-fact environment, there occurs a terrifyingly cruel action, official, accepted, yet for the reader mysterious and unexplained. It is entirely out of line with all the terms of actual experience in which the story has otherwise dealt. It is as if ordinary life had suddenly ceased and was replaced, without warning, without break, and without change of scene, by some horrifying nightmare. This shocks the reader, because he barely realizes that the outcome was very strategically planned all along.
Character interest in the story is kept to a minimum. Instead, Jackson makes use of symbolic names to give her story universal significance. "Summers" suggests the association with fertility rites. "Graves" signifies the notion of death that runs through the tale. "Warner" characterizes the voice of the past, warning the citizens of the town that breaking with tradition will have dire consequences. The roll call of townspeople goes through the alphabet-Adams to Zanini. However, the reader learns very little about the inner nature of the characters discuses. The author seems deliberately to have played down any distinguishing traits. The victim herself, it is made very clear, is simply the typical small-town housewife. The general flatness of characterization tends to indicate that the story is written on the lines of a fable or a parable. The characters represent mere human types and their suggestive names indicate the impending doom. Finally, the choice of New England as a setting will suggest to those familiar with history the notion of witchcraft, for which almost two dozen people were put to death in 1692.
Jackson uses symbolism to enhance the shock value of the story. When the reader is caught unaware, he tends to feel betrayed all along the development of the story but a close second reading assures him that there is no trick being played. Jackson has very artfully used symbols and has woven them into the very matrix of her short story. At the very outset of the novel, one can notice the symbolic overtones - "The morning of June 27th was clear and sunny" It is not a mere ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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