“The Lottery” Shirley Jackson. Notes on the story. Shirley Jackson.
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Shirley Hardie Jackson was born December 14, 1916 in San Francisco, CA. Jackson received her BA in English from Syracuse University. She married Stanley Edgar Hyman, a staff writer and literary critic at the New Yorker in the 1940s. She and Hyman had 4 children. Jackson's writing career flourished with publications in The New Yorker, Mademoiselle, Fantasy and Science Fiction, Charm, The Yale Review, The New Republic, The Saturday Evening Post, and Reader's Digest. She also published several collections of stories. Jackson died of heart failure on August 8th, 1965 in Bennington, VT.
After World War II America experienced a trend toward general social conformity.
People tended to imitate those around them rather than follow their own separate paths.
Encouraging this conformity was the spread of television, which broadcast the same set of images to Americans scattered through the country.
Meanwhile, patriotic rhetoric dominated the public mood in politics. Fears about fascist dictatorships and communism, issues that had been highlighted by the war-induced paranoia and suspicion among seemingly peaceful American communities.
In the story, the townspeople are swept away by the tide of conformity, and the lottery goes ahead as always.
“The Lottery” certainly alludes to Gospel of St. John, 8:7, in which Jesus frees an adulterous woman, directing the scribe/Pharisee who is without sin to cast the first stone. No one throws stones at her.
Unfortunately, no one in “The Lottery” rebukes the powers so forthrightly as Jesus does in John 8:7.Tessie becomes their scapegoat; she pays for their sins.
Tessie Hutchinson: Most likely an allusion to Anne Hutchinson (1591-1643), American religious enthusiast who founded the Puritan colony of Rhode Island. She had new theological views which opposed her to other ministers. After a local trial banished her she was tried before the Boston Church and formally excommunicated. Anne and fifteen of her children were subsequently murdered by the Indians in 1643.
The parallelism between her story and Tessie's is clear: to her, excommunication meant spiritual death just as to Tessie being cast out from the group = death.
Anti-ritualAnn Hutchinson held that neither church nor state was needed to connect a believer to his or her God. (In the end, Tessie rejects the lottery ritual, saying “it isn’t right.”)
Tessie, diminutive for Theresa, derives from the Greek theizein, meaning “to reap”, or, if the nickname is for Anastasia, it will translate literally “of the resurrection”. (sacrifice for sins; contrast with Delacroix—“of the cross.”)
Martin: associated with Mars, the Roman god of fertility and war. The following are just FYI:
St. Martin: Patron of drunkards, to save them from falling into danger. (The origin came from St. Martin’s day coinciding with the feast of Bacchus, god of wine.)
St. Martin’s goose. The 11th of November, St. Martin’s Day, was at one time the great goose feast of France. The legend is that St. Martin was annoyed by a goose, which he ordered to be killed and served up for dinner. He died after eating dinner, and a goose has been ever since “sacrificed” to him on the anniversary.
St. Martin’s bird is the raven, long associated with death and departed spirits
Adams : reference to the first man, the first sinner
While he seems to be one of the few who questions the lottery when he mentions that another village is thinking about giving up the ritual, he stands at the front of the crowd when the stoning of Tessie begins. Like the biblical Adam,Adams goes along with the sin; he follows others in their evil.
vulgarized to Della-croy(no longer truly of the cross)
Some critics suggest that Mrs. Delacroix represents the duality of human nature: she is pleasant and friendly on the outside, but underneath she possesses a degree of savagery.
Crosshas many connotations crossroads (faced with 2 directions); to cross something off; to be angry; to cross over or to pass by; pass from one side of to the other; to oppose, as in crossing one’s path; a burden; combination of 2 elements; To make or put a line across; To betray or deceive, double-cross…
Dunbar: breaking this name down into its 2 syllables, one can come up with:
1. dun – to treat cruelly; or a dull, brownish gray color
2. bar - Something that impedes or prevents action or progress; relatively long, straight, rigid piece of solid material used as a barrier, support, or fastener; A standard, expectation, or degree of requirement;
There is very little conflict in the story—only Tessie’s objections present any conflict at all.
At the end of "The Lottery," the reader discovers with horror what is about to happen, but the story ends with the casting of the first stones. Jackson prefers to leave the gruesome details to the reader's imagination.
The conflict occurs within the reader as the reader notes foreshadowing in the story with growing uneasiness