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A Literary Analysis of the Lottery, a Short Story by Shirley Jackson

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Shirley Jackson’s “The Lottery” follows the story of a small town, starting their usual June routine of playing the lottery, an event that many associate with joy. However, the reader eventually realizes the lottery is not a joyous occasion when the winner, Tessie, is stoned at the end of the drawing. The shocking ending of “The Lottery” surprises many people; when Tessie is struck by that first rock, it is almost as if the reader is hit at the same time. However, delving a bit deeper, we can see what aspects of the story were there to forewarn us of the impending stone.

The first clue that points to the shocking ending is the ominous pile of stones that the school boys stack upon arriving at the town square (Jackson 258). These stones are for the impending stoning, following the lottery drawing, everyone is aware of this, except the reader. Upon arriving, the adults stand away from the pile, keeping their routine talk and casual jokes far from what the pile represents (Jackson 258). The adults do not address the pile of stones, so the reader is inclined to dismiss this action as just children passing time.

Another clue is the black box (Jackson 258). The box is black, a universal symbol for death, yet the reader may pay little attention to the box alone. The clue is not just the box, it is the fact none of the town’s people want to be too close to this box; they keep much space between themselves and this bad omen (Jackson 258). The town’s people are even hesitant to approach the box when asked for assistance (Jackson 258). When talk of changing the box resurfaces each year, the town’s people quickly let it fade, afraid to, “upset even as much tradition as was represented by the black box” (Jackson 258-259).

Still, nothing points to the fact that the lottery is not a good thing than when Tessie shouts, “This isn’t fair.” (Jackson 262). Once the reader reads those worlds all suspicions are confirmed, winning the Lottery is not a good thing. Tessie continues to confirm this as she tries to recruit more people into the second drawing, willingly offering of her daughters to receive this “prize” instead of her (Jackson 262). As the second drawing begins, the reader can easily sense the uneasiness in the crowd as many pray that it is not one of the younger children, who pick the doomed stipe of paper (Jackson 263). Nevertheless, despite this last confirming clue, when the town’s people are suddenly, “upon her” (Jackson 264) it is not only Tessie who the stones are upon.

From the stones, the ominous black box and finally the whole sense of “this isn’t fair” (Jackson 264), Jackson leaves just enough clues to make the reader feel uneasy. However, each clue is so forcibly ignored by the town’s people that the reader does not think to pay them any mind, until Tessie calls attention to the unfairness of the lottery (Jackson 262). Even then, the towns continued pattern to overlook these clues inclines some to believe that Tessie is just a ranting woman. In the end, due to Jackson’s deliberate lack of attention grabbing evidence, the lottery a joyous occasion. Right until the first stone strikes (Jackson 264). 

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A Literary Analysis of the Lottery, a Short Story by Shirley Jackson. (2022, Nov 28). Retrieved from

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