I first read Shirley Jackson’s The Lottery during my literature class back in college. It became one of my favorite short stories ever.
It starts out uncomplicated and linear – a summer day in a picturesque, idyllic village. People were gathering in the village square for the lottery. The story progresses with descriptions of the villagers and the shabby black box that represented the tradition. An unspoken tension brews as they proceed with the ritual.
We begin to understand the story as it ends – as the unfortunate fate of Mrs. Hutchinson is revealed. A lottery that nobody wants to ‘win’. A lottery that isn’t a game but a human sacrifice. I just love how the plot twist was delivered. It hits you with sharp juxtapositions. It explodes with so much cultural and historical mirrors, that unfortunately, to some extent, still exists in this day and age. Intense but not overdone.
This is the type of story that makes you think about it more the moment it’s over. What is the “black box” and how is it still present today? When does tradition turn into folly? Why are some practices still being followed (blindly or explicitly) despite being irrelevant and even damaging? And what can we draw out from Mrs. Hutchinson’s anguish before her impending death?