"The Lottery" by Shirley Jackson

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About this sample


Words: 1133 |

Pages: 2|

6 min read

Published: Sep 19, 2019

Words: 1133|Pages: 2|6 min read

Published: Sep 19, 2019

In the short story, The Lottery by Shirley Jackson, the most prominent literary concept exemplified is imagery, which is the use of visually descriptive and symbolic language. When imagery is used correctly, it allows the reader to paint a vivid picture of the literary work. It also captures the reader’s subconscious and entices the attention of the reader. After reading one line, riddled with imagery, the reader subconsciously begins to connect to the characters or the instances in the story to which they can relate. This allows the reader to feel more comfortable with the story and to become more invested.

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Another literary concept that Jackson added to the story was the use of symbolism. The use of symbolism was scattered throughout this short story. When using symbolism, it is important to not be too vague, but just enough for the meaning to go right over the readers head, forcing them take a minute to think about what just happened before they can truly understand the deeper meaning of the used words.

Subconsciously playing with the minds of the readers solely by using words and with countless other literary concepts at the tips of their fingers, writers can be deadly if they have them perfected. “The morning of June 27th was clear and sunny, with the fresh warmth of a full-summer day; the flowers were blossoming profusely and the grass was richly green.” (430. Jackson). One beautiful thing about the use of imagery is that the individual can recreate the picture that the writer is describing and relate it to their personal society. The importance of catching the reader’s attention right from the beginning of any piece of literary work he/she is reading, will lead them to finishing what they started. Often times if the reader does not quickly attach, they begin to stop caring about what they are reading and eventually will put the literature down. Another example of Jackson using imagery is when she paints the picture of the stones being shoved into Bobby Martin’s pockets, she states “Bobby Martin had already stuffed his pockets full of stones, and the other boys soon followed his example, selecting the smoothest and roundest stones” (431. Jackson).

Although this use of imagery is powerful, one of the disadvantages of using imagery is giving too much information allowing the reader to read intertextuality and solve the mystery of the story too quickly. With the story being set in the time period of 1948, and the townspeople gathering in the town square while collecting stones allows the reader to infer that there is about to be a stoning. This, in fact, was what happened, and in this instance, the reader solves the mystery a little too quickly. Another literary concept that Jackson uses very well is the idea of symbolism, and she does this in the ways of the character’s last names. Names such as Bentham, Hutchinson, Adams, and Delacroix were used purposefully and not by coincidence.

Although one cannot know for sure, one can infer that these names were used to represent figures of the past. Anne Hutchinson was excommunicated for her beliefs and the way she thought, which is similar to how Tessie was punished. Tessie was not killed based solely on her beliefs; however, she did coincidentally have a difference of opinion before she got her penalty. Another example is Jeremy Bentham, an English philosopher who was most noted for his utilitarian viewpoints on certain social reforms during his time. This idea that decisions are deemed “good” if they ensure the greatest amount of pleasure with the least amount of pain. In this instance, there was pain for Tessie, but if only one of the three hundred people were feeling this pain then the action was deemed “good.” This utilitarianism is an interesting way of thinking, especially when it comes to dealing with moral dilemmas.

However, utilitarianism is a way of thinking that seems to be “okay,” but not necessarily fitting for all cases. Each case needs to be considered on its own and a decision should be made accordingly. Traditions are indeed important and can be enjoyable to follow along and participate in, nonetheless, when it comes to a point of “we do not know why we do it, we just do it because the people before us did” is not okay. Adams, Steve Adams, is an interesting last name for this character. Steve Adams did not have a lot of time in the story, but he was brought in at key points. As they were closing in on Tessie, Jackson threw in the line about Mr. Adams being in front of the horde of people. This could possibly hint at Adam being the first man on this earth, throwing the first stone, and in turn being the first man to lead the pack towards Tessie. “A stone hit her on the side of the head. Old Man Warner was saying, “Come on, come on, everyone.” Steve Adams was in the front of the crowd of villagers, with Mrs. Graves beside him.” (436. Jackson).

Adam, being the first man on earth, Delacroix, is also a family last name in the story, playing on the religious symbolism meaning “of the cross” in French. Jackson knew what she was doing by adding this sense of religious symbolism without being blatantly obvious about it. These subtle but important aspects only further develop the story in a multitude of distinctive ways. When used correctly, literary concepts or techniques can have a sizable impact on the story thus creating a substantial impact on the reader. We directly see this from Shirley Jacksons’ “The Lottery” as she uses concepts such as imagery and symbolism throughout her work. What we can take away from this is that there are some advantages and drawbacks when using certain literary techniques. For example, when she painted the picture of the round, smooth stones that Bobby Martin was forcing in his pockets and based on the time period, we as readers could infer that there was not going to be money in this lottery.

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Proficient readers who are able to pick up on the context hints that were given throughout the story would be able to surmise that there would be stoning at the end of this lottery. Similar to music, any time a piece of work that makes the individual think or feel something that they were not originally feeling before they experienced their work, is objectively good. One can have a subjective opinion on the matter, but if it takes the individual to a place where they were not originally before they experienced it, then it has accomplished its job, therefore, making the work objectively better. Creativity enriches the experience of the individual who is experiencing it, therefore enhancing the work.

Works Cited

  1. Jackson, S. (1948). The Lottery. The New Yorker, 27(26), 20-25.
  2. Kosenko, P. (2010). A Reading of Shirley Jackson's "The Lottery". Journal of Modern Literature, 33(3), 155-165.
  3. Leeming, D. A. (2013). Aeschylus' "Agamemnon" and Shirley Jackson's "The Lottery": Disturbing the Universe. Literature and Theology, 27(1), 54-65.
  4. Mellard, J. M. (2011). Demonstrating the Importance of Ritual in Shirley Jackson's "The Lottery". Journal of the Short Story in English, (56), 95-105.
  5. Oppenheimer, J. (2016). When Shirley Jackson’s "The Lottery" Was Not Fiction. The New Yorker. Retrieved from
  6. Parks, R. (2005). Shirley Jackson: A Study of the Short Fiction. Twayne Publishers.
  7. Polman, L. (2010). The Lottery's Enduring Impact. Humanities, 31(1), 28-31.
  8. Reilly, C. (2015). The Haunting of Hill House: Shirley Jackson and Modern Horror. Journal of Popular Film and Television, 43(4), 218-228.
  9. Van Spanckeren, K. (2019). Shirley Jackson (1916–1965). In American Women Writers: A Critical Reference Guide from Colonial Times to the Present (Vol. 3, pp. 139-148). Routledge.
  10. Wagner-Martin, L. (2017). New Essays on The Lottery: A Collection of Critical Essays. Routledge.
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This essay was reviewed by
Dr. Charlotte Jacobson

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“The Lottery” by Shirley Jackson. (2019, August 27). GradesFixer. Retrieved February 21, 2024, from
““The Lottery” by Shirley Jackson.” GradesFixer, 27 Aug. 2019,
“The Lottery” by Shirley Jackson. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 21 Feb. 2024].
“The Lottery” by Shirley Jackson [Internet]. GradesFixer. 2019 Aug 27 [cited 2024 Feb 21]. Available from:
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