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The Perpetual Relevance of Shirley Jackson’s The Lottery

The Lottery: A Synopsis

In 1948, a short story by the American author Shirley Jackson caused a considerable uproar in the literary world. “The Lottery” is a shocking tale that follows the inhabitants of a small, traditional town as they gather for their annual ritual of “the lottery.” The story’s brutality and unexpected ending caused a significant controversy and prompted an intense debate about the nature of human tendencies.”The Lottery” begins on the morning of June 27th, a peaceful summer day, as the inhabitants of a small American town gather for the annual tradition of “the lottery.” The villagers assemble in the town square, waiting nervously for the lottery’s commencement.

As the crowd grows, the narrator, a woman named Tessie Hutchinson, arrives late, complaining about the rush she was in to make it on time. The Lottery’s Rules

The lottery’s rules are as follows: each family in the town draws a slip of paper from a black box.

One unlucky person draws a slip with a black spot on it, which makes them the “winner” of the lottery. Afterward, a second drawing is held amongst the “winning” family members to determine who will be sacrificed.

The winner is then stoned to death by the rest of the villagers. The Lottery’s Tradition

The tradition has been passed down from generation to generation, and no one can seem to explain its significance.

It doesn’t seem to be related to any religious or political motive; it simply exists because of tradition. The only explanation the townspeople offer is that they’ve always done it.

The Lottery’s Characters

Shirley Jackson focuses on the townspeoples reactions to the lottery rather than a single character’s perspective. She shows how a sense of community and groupthink can lead to a shocking and barbaric act of sacrifice.

The characters in the story range from jovial to nervous, with some being dismissive of the entire ritual and others taking it very seriously. The Lottery’s


As the lottery comes to an end, each family realizes the severity of their tradition. Tessie Hutchinson, the village outcast, is revealed to be the winner.

She pleads for mercy, but the townspeople, including her husband and children, turn on her, stoning her to death. The story ends with the unsettling image of the stone’s mounting pile that ended a human life.


“The Lottery” is a shocking short story that highlights the danger of blindly following traditions without questioning their origins or motives. It is an admonition of groupthink and the consequences of normalizing violence.

It also emphasizes the need for individuals to stand up against unjust societal norms and question cultural traditions. Shirley Jackson’s legendary tale remains relevant in contemporary times, reminding us of the importance of independent thinking.

Plot Analysis of “The Lottery”

Shirley Jackson’s “The Lottery” is a classic short story that has continued to shock and provoke readers’ thoughts ever since its publication in 1948. The story centers on a small town’s annual tradition associated with the lottery where the winner gets stoned to death by the remaining villagers.

The story is suspenseful and well-plotted, leading up to a climactic ending that leaves readers reeling. This article provides a plot analysis of the story, exploring the vital components of the plot, including the exposition, rising action, climax, falling action, and resolution.


The exposition is the introduction of the story, which provides fundamental information to the reader. Thus, the exposition of Shirley Jackson’s “The Lottery” introduces the reader to the basic setting, characters, and context.

The story takes place in a small, fictional town that is vaguely described, leaving the reader to envision their own location. The events of the Lottery are essential aspects of the story, as the villagers’ behavior and their responses imply the community’s social, political, and economic structures.

The reader is quickly informed about the characters, their behavior, and their interactions with one another. One of the most prominent characters, Tessie Hutchinson, is introduced as the protagonist, who is characterized as being late and complaining throughout the story.

The first exposition is where the readers get a sense of unease due to the foreshadowing techniques used by the author.

Rising Action

As the story progresses and the lottery commences, we witness the rising action in “The Lottery.” Shirley Jackson gradually builds suspense through the townspeople’s behavior during the preparations for the lottery. The villagers are busy setting up a bandstand and other equipment that is necessary for the lottery’s smooth execution.

The behavior of the villagers is eerie and strange, painting a picture of a horrible human sacrifice that takes place every year. The tension continues to build as the villagers select their papers from the black box held by Mr. Summers and unfold them slowly, with everyone hoping they do not get the black circled paper.


The climax of the Lottery is a pivotal moment, where the story reaches its highest point of tension and anticipation. In “The Lottery,” the climax occurs when the crowd has drawn the names, and Tessie Hutchinson is revealed as the winner of the lottery.

Shockingly, as the crowd’s attention turns to her, she protests her fate. This is the point where the tension and suspense in the story come to a head, as the villagers begin to pick up stones, preparing to stone Tessie to death.

Falling Action

The falling action in “The Lottery” comprises the events that follow Tessie’s death. The villagers’ behavior changes from one of enthusiasm and anticipation to cold finality.

They begin to pick up their belongings and disperse, as if nothing has happened. The villagers’ behavior throughout the entire story is almost robotic and with a sense of detachment that is only heightened after Tessie’s death.

The danger has passed, and so has the excitement of the lottery.


The resolution is the conclusion of the story. In “The Lottery,” the resolution is where the narrator describes the final scene, where the villagers going to their homes after the terrible lottery.

However, unlike previous events, there is an uncanny silence that envelops the town. There is a sense of disillusionment and desperation, which further establishes how deeply the residents of the village are in ingrained into their traditions.

This ending is an invitation for readers to question the nature of tradition and its impact on our lives. It indicates what happens when people value tradition over human life.


In conclusion, Shirley Jackson’s “The Lottery” is a masterclass in plot structure, containing all the essential aspects of a captivating story. The story’s plot includes an exposition where we meet the villagers, rising action, where tension and drama build up, climax, where the story reaches its highest point of tension, falling action, where the consequences of the climax are elucidated, and resolution, where the story concludes.

The story’s construction is effective and helps create a story that is still timeless even after decades since its first publication. The Production of “The Lottery”: An Overview

Shirley Jackson’s short story “The Lottery” has both captivated and horrified audiences since its initial publication in The New Yorker in 1948.

In the decades since, the story has been adapted for various theatrical productions, films, television, and radio. This article will provide insight into the production of “The Lottery,” including the adaptations, creative choices, and actors’ performances.

Theatrical Productions

“The Lottery” has been adapted for the stage many times, beginning with a 1953 production in Westport, Connecticut, directed by Warren Enters. Over time, different directors and producers have added their own twists to the play, including new characterizations, changes to dialogue, and altered staging.

One notable production was a Chicago stage adaptation by the Steppenwolf Theatre Company in 1981. The production featured a more explicit depiction of violence and featured elements of music and dance.

The show received critical acclaim and ran for a limited time in different theaters around the world.

Film Adaptations

Since the publication of “The Lottery,” there have been many film adaptations. One of the earliest of these was a 1969 short film written and directed by Larry Yust, who remained faithful to the original story’s dialogue.

The short film won several awards and has been credited with staying true to Jackson’s vision. Other successful adaptations include the 1996 version, directed by Daniel Sackheim, which starred Keri Russell and Dan Cortese, and the 2013 version directed by Anna Marbrook.

The latter was an adaptation that made changes to the story’s setting and protagonists but still maintained the essence of the original tale.

Television Adaptations

“The Lottery” was adapted for television several times. An early version was a 1950 broadcast on NBC’s series The Robert Montgomery Presents, which featured Thomas Mitchell and Leora Thatcher in the lead roles.

Another example is a 1996 TV movie adaptation, directed by Daniel Sackheim, using both much of the original dialogue and a contemporary setting. Even though this version also made some minor changes, it still retained the overall essence of the original story.

Creative Choices

Adapting “The Lottery” for stage, screen, or television requires the creative team to make a range of choices to bring the story to life. These creative choices can alter genres, performances, settings, and themes that are implied in the original text.

For example, the 1969 film adaptation takes a more subtle approach by using a black-and-white cinematography that adds a starkness to the grimness of the story’s events. Alternatively, the Steppenwolf Theatre Company’s 1981 stage production relied on the use of music and dance to add a theatrical element to the story’s brutality.

Actors’ Performances

Performances are an essential component of any production of “The Lottery.” The actors’ interpretations of the characters, their individual choices, and their actions and expressions add to the story’s impact. The actor playing the role of Tessie Hutchinson, in particular, is critical to the audience’s understanding and emotions.

The actor should embody Tessie’s rebellious nature, be relatable to the audience, and evoke a deep emotional response. Similarly, the actor playing Mr. Summers should act with authority and confidence, firmly establishing him as the town’s de facto leader and keeper of the tradition.


Overall, the production of “The Lottery” involves multiple creative choices to craft a compelling show, including its adaptation for stage, film, or television. The success of the production depends on the creative team’s vision for the story, including the actors’ performances and how they connect with the audience.

Ultimately, “The Lottery” has stood the test of time as a classic and thought-provoking tale that can endure different styles of storytelling. The Release of “The Lottery”: An Analysis

Shirley Jackson’s short story, “The Lottery,” was published in The New Yorker in 1948 and promptly became one of the most controversial pieces in American literature history.

After its initial release, it generated a lot of responses ranging from support to angry outrage. This article will analyze the story’s release, including the reception it received, its lasting impact on literature, and its place in history.

Initial Reception

When “The Lottery” was first published in The New Yorker, it received a mixed response. Some readers praised the story’s insights into the dark side of human nature, while others found it tasteless and offensive.

The vast majority of the critical reviews, however, were overwhelmingly negative, as critics condemned the story’s gruesome and abhorrent subject matter. At the time, many readers and critics interpreted the story as a plain criticism of imperialism, the Holocaust, and other social issues.

However, the immediate negative reaction that emerged in the press allowed the story to find a life in popular culture and attain a cult following. The controversy surrounding “The Lottery” paved the way for Jackson’s narrative to be added to the curriculum of various educational institutions, making it an enduring piece of literature that is studied widely today.

Literary Significance

“The Lottery” is now recognized as a seminal work of 20th-century literature, and it has had a powerful influence on the development of the horror and suspense genres. It depicts the darker side of human nature and the dangers of tradition, topics that reverberate to the time of its publication.

The story’s lasting influence is evident in the many adaptations of the story that have been staged, produced, or written, as the story continues to inspire current works.

Historical Context

“The Lottery” was released in 1948, a time when many Americans were still suffering from post-World War II shock. It was an era of economic distress and poverty, which also saw the rise of the civil rights movement and a growing sense of political and social unease.

The narrative, which dealt with themes of conformity and unquestioned traditions, is significant given America’s period. It speaks to the societal longing for change, and the desire for individuals to question long-held beliefs and social norms.

Long-Term Influence

The controversy and deep impact of “The Lottery” endure today, with the story being widely taught in schools, colleges, and universities. It has inspired multiple adaptations along with numerous artistic recreations, highlighting the narrative’s continued relevance.

Its influence can be found in other literary works and films that have explored ideas of conformity, violence, frailty, and the impact of tradition on society.


In conclusion, the release of “The Lottery” was a pivot point in American literature, prompting controversies, debates, and discussions around issues that are still relevant today. The story’s significance, literary impact, and its ability to stimulate conversation and inspire future generations of writers make it an enduring and thought-provoking work.

Ultimately, the release of “The Lottery” in 1948 stands as an essential event in American literature, one that still resonates with contemporary audiences and will continue to do so in the future. The Soundtrack of “The Lottery”: An Overview

In addition to the visual images and dialogue, the soundtrack of a film or television show plays a crucial role in setting the mood, enhancing the atmosphere, and creating an emotional response from audiences.

The same is true for adaptations of “The Lottery.” This article provides an overview of the different soundtracks used in various adaptations of “The Lottery,” discussing their significance and impact.

1969 Short Film

One of the earliest adaptations of “The Lottery” was a 1969 short film by Larry Yust. Rather than relying on original musical score, Yust blended various sound effects that created an eerie and unsettling atmosphere.

The sound of children playing and laughing in the background provided an unsettling contrast when filmed scenes became increasingly disturbing. The use of diegetic sound, the sound that can be heard by the characters within the story, contributed to the film’s realism and contributed to the audience’s heightened emotional response.

1996 TV Movie

The 1996 TV movie adaptation used a contemporary original score by Ernest Troost, which complemented the film’s modern-day setting. The score’s percussive and driving beat set an intense and suspenseful tone, adding an additional layer of emotional impact to the story.

The music becomes increasingly discordant and unsettling as the story progresses, building to a dramatic crescendo at the climax of the film. The soundtrack intensifies and enhances each emotion associated with the characters’ actions and reactions, creating a haunting intensity.

2013 Film

The 2013 film adaptation of “The Lottery” had a distinct soundtrack composed by Don McGlashan, set within the film’s southern hemisphere setting. The music had a more pastoral feel, incorporating orchestral strings, guitars, and harmonica accompaniments.

The score’s earthy quality reflects the film’s setting of New Zealand, providing a new perspective on the story’s universality. While the use of music was understated, it played a crucial role in building the film’s tension and creating empathy with the characters.

Creative Choices

Like any other artistic choice in filmmaking, the soundtrack used in adapting “The Lottery” is crucial in setting the mood and building tension. For example, the Steppenwolf Theatre Company’s 1981 stage adaptation used a mix of classical piano music, choral harmonies, and poetic verse to create an entirely different and more subtle form of tension.

The music was used to build a sense of hope, innocence, and community that became increasingly tarnished as the true intentions of the tradition were revealed.


The soundtracks of “The Lottery’s” adaptations enhance the viewing experience and further immerse the audience in the story’s world, building anticipation, and emotional connection. They create a complex but vital sensory experience for the viewer, adding another significant layer to the narrative.

The music enhances the audience’s ability to connect with the characters and their emotions, intensifying the impact of the stories’ harsh lessons.


In conclusion, the soundtracks of different adaptations of “The Lottery” have played an essential role in tailoring this classic work for the screen. By creating a multi-layered sensory experience, the music enhances audience engagement and immerses viewers in the story’s world like never before.

It also reflects the creative choices of the filmmakers and composers alike, presenting different interpretations of the story while staying true to its cultural significance. Ultimately, the soundtracks underline the story’s relevance and continue to engage audiences while evoking the story’s haunting essence.

In conclusion, adaptations of “The Lottery” have taken many forms, but the story remains relevant to contemporary audiences. The soundtrack, visual, and musical elements of various adaptations provide a complex sensory experience and enhance the immersive quality of the narrative.

Despite the criticisms and controversies generated by the story, it remains a powerful and enduring work of American literature, asking readers to contemplate the dangers of unquestioned traditions and the darker aspects of human nature. FAQs:

Q: Why was “The Lottery” considered controversial?

A: The story received widespread criticism for its gruesome subject matter, which drew raw and disturbing imagery that some found offensive. Q: What is the enduring significance of “The Lottery” in American

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