Donna Burrell has labeled Jackson’s method of analysis the “folklore of the modern suburb,” noting that Jackson is “concerned with representing particular societies or community systems, not simply a few of the members. To some degree the system is the protagonist; many of the events seem included merely to illustrate the interactions of the elements, and even the rules of the interactions.” As a result, Jackson’s characters are usually flat rather than round, developed only as much as is necessary to establish their position in the social system of the story.
“The Lottery,” Jackson’s most famous story, has been anthologized to a degree that makes it one of the few stories that one can assume nearly every American student has read. Jackson’s calm description of the lottery procedure—the reader is given more commonplace details about the workings of the lottery than about any of the characters—helps counterpoint the horror of the final ritual that the story leaves to the reader’s imagination. As Barbara Allen puts it, “The point of ‘The Lottery’ is that blind adherence to traditional forms of behavior that have lost their original meanings and acquired no new, positive ones, can be destructive.” A number of specific targets have been suggested for Jackson’s story, including American society’s obsession with finding scapegoats during the years of the Cold War and the House Un-American Activities Committee witch-hunts. The remarkable openness of the story, however, seems to make it an attack on all forms of destructive social behavior, and Jackson was particularly proud when the then-apartheid-based South African government banned the story. Almost all Jackson’s tales make the same point in one way or another,...
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