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Analysis of Literary Devices in The Lottery by Shirley Jackson

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Shirley Jackson’s “The Lottery” captivates readers with her peculiar point of view on humankind and its nature. Her dark literature has a lasting effect on anyone who reads her work. Shirley Jackson was influenced, mostly, by important people in her life. Her husband, Stanley Edgar Hyman, was a renounce literary critic. He supported and assisted Shirley Jackson’s writing for most of her career. Jackson and her mother, Geraldine Jackson, had an unfortunate relationship, and many believe this inspired Jackson’s dark literature. Shirley Jackson was born in San Francisco on December 14, 1916. She spent her childhood writing stories and she began exploring poetry in her teenage years. Certain events affected Jackson’s writing themes. When she was seventeen, Jackson and her family suddenly moved from California to New York. This was when she began to include more horror in her writing. Jackson attended the University of Rochester. After her first year, she spent a year at home practicing writing a thousand words a day. In college, she had her first successful short story which allowed her to help establish her campus’s first literary publication. “Shirley Jackson’s work has aroused controversy among scholars, many of whom doubt their lasting importance, but no one denies that they have had a significant cultural impact on generations of Americans”. Shirley Jackson claimed to believe in Christian Science, however, she had a huge collection of witchcraft books. Despite her many stories involving the supernatural, Jackson strongly believed that ghosts are not real. Her husband, Edgar Hyman, was a strong militant atheist.

“Jackson bridged the gap between serious literature and popular fiction in suspenseful novels often about extraordinary occurrences. Much of Jackson’s other work presents disturbed characters within the context of vividly realized domestic, everyday settings”. Shirley Jackson wrote many short stories and novels. Her career was never extremely popular because Jackson was trying to raise her children and write at the same time, all while supporting her husband. Shirley Jackson would have her children practice writing poetry and short stories because she wanted them to follow her and her husband’s career paths. Unfortunately, none of Jackson’s children became popular with their writing, but they did admire and learn from her work. Towards the end of her life, Jackson suffered from agoraphobia, the extreme fear of embarrassment. Jackson was a smoker and she always struggled with obesity. In 1965, at the age of 48, Shirley Jackson died of heart failure. Her literature became more popular after her death. When she died, Jackson was in the middle of writing two novels. “The following year a collection of her work edited by Stanley Edgar Hyman, was published. In 1968, a volume of work containing Jackson’s unfinished novel, sixteen short stories, and three lectures was published”. Shirley Jackson’s husband died five years later at the age of fifty-one from a heart attack. “The theme of this story is a terrifying one, memorable for the way it sweeps aside romantic notions of rural folk, but Jackson’s stories covered the spectrum from the fantastic to the realistic to the humorous”. Jackson’s short story, “The Lottery” exhibits human versus society in two crucial scenes.

In the scene depicting Tess showing up late for the lottery, the town liked her and was willing to wait for her to show up. It is contradicting because when Tess is chosen for the stoning, no one objects to the tradition along with her. In a second example, the short story reflects irony in the scene depicting Tess’s death. Irony is shown by the setting being sunny and cheerful, then ending in her brutal murder, and when Tess encouraged her husband to pull the piece of paper that would lead to her stoning. “Jackson enhances horror with a methodical selection process that mimics the fairness of democracy. The two-staged ritual first names the family, then orders the drawing among parents and children that rapidly alienates the loser”. “The Lottery” uses foreshadowing through two scenes, first in the scene depicting the boys gathering stones into a pile before the true nature of the story is revealed. Second by Tess showing up late and having the attention. Foreshadowing is shown when Mr. Summers said they would proceed without Tess because she was late. In a second example, “The Lottery” reflects suspense in the scene of drawing the papers. Suspense is mainly shown by Jackson withholding the true purpose of the lottery and not giving an explanation until the climax of the story. “Tess Hutchinson is the primary protagonist, a housewife who is perfectly content to go along with the ceremony until her family is chosen in the first round. Only then does she declare that was not fair”. Shirley Jackson wrote “The Lottery” in one morning. Some readers thought “The Lottery” was based on facts, based on an article. Before the release, editors wanted to make minor changes to her short story. Weeks after its release, “The Lottery” was a nationwide stir. Shirley Jackson received much hate mail, including rejection from her family. Of course, it caused major controversy between her readers. The story has been adapted many times. “As one of the most famous American short stories of the 20th century, ‘The Lottery’ is brief, sparsely detailed, and relies less on character development than on its shocking finally for its unsettling insights into human behavior”.

Contributions to Shirley Jackson’s literary heritage are evident. She used he childhood and college experiences to inspire her writings. Jackson’s literature benefitted society by pointing to particular universal, like the issue of blindly following tradition. It also shows society blaming one individual for the evil. “The Lottery” influenced culture as a whole with its unique aspects. It made people talk about unfair punishments and it caused readers to think and consider what the issues may have symbolized for their own lives. From the way Shirley Jackson introduced horror to the ways she used humor, she was a literary genius. Jackson executed the “The Lottery” in a remarkable way. She did not write it simply as a horror story, but wanted to show the dangers of peer pressure and blindly going along with something. No matter how many times “The Lottery” is adapted or changed it will always be a part of American literary history. The day after the short story was published, Jackson knew it would forever be a great controversy. Shirley Jackson’s literature will always have an impact on those who read her peculiar works.

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Analysis Of Literary Devices In The Lottery By Shirley Jackson. (2020, December 10). GradesFixer. Retrieved August 3, 2021, from
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