Why Did Shirley Jackson Wrote The Lottery

Why did Shirley Jackson write "The Lottery"?

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favoritethings eNotes educator| Certified Educator

One reason Jackson could have written this story is to draw attention to the way we often hang on to outdated traditions that no longer really make any sense or have value.  The narrator tells us that in the community depicted in the story, "no one liked to upset even as much tradition as was represented by the black box" used during the lottery ceremony.  Although the black box is old, so old that it predates the oldest member of the community and is "splintered badly" and growing "shabbier" by the year, no one wants to do away with it in favor of something newer and less shabby.  The box has no value in and of itself: it isn't even the original box.  And yet, there is a strange, communal attachment to it. 

If members of this community are so loathe to do away with a shabby wooden box, imagine how tightly they must cling to other traditions that seem more significant.  Despite the fact that the lottery is cruel—these people ought to know that human sacrifices do nothing to help the harvest (after all, such an idea was the domain of certain ancient societies, but not modern ones)—they hold onto it.  They are so resistant to change, so unthinking, that they retain a murderous tradition only because it is tradition, not because it has actual value for their community.  The fact that the lottery is a tradition doesn't make it less cruel, but this group of people seems to wash their hands, so to speak, of the cruelty because it is tradition.  Their thoughtlessness is appalling, as is is true of anyone who maintains such an awful, cruel tradition only because it is what has always been done.

literaturenerd eNotes educator| Certified Educator

One could come up with a multitude of reasons as to why Jackson wrote the short story "The Lottery."

Given that her stories typically provided a foil to her life, Jackson seemed to be flirting with ideas she could only dream about and invent. Shirley's life was one filled with content and without conflict.

Therefore, in her flirting with the alternative, Jackson created stories which illustrated life as something which held constant neuroses, the alienated, and the exiled.

Her story, "The Lottery", depicts the old ways of a small rural farming town. The town holds a yearly lottery so as to "find" a person to sacrifice for the crops.

Here, Jackson flirts with the idea of human sacrifice for the betterment of society. There are two reasons as to why she may have constructed the story.

First, the story could simply be depicting a period in time where sacrifice was considered accepted. People simply followed the traditions of their culture simply because it had worked in the past.

Second, Jackson could be examining the fact that many times people are willing to blindly follow anything for any reason. This shows the characters to be mules-they simply do what society tells them to without question.

isitcrazy1 | Student

She wrote it to bring up the oppression of women.  In the story it constintly points out that women are inferior.  The boys gather the stones, the boys draw the cards, and the women stand around and chat.  She wanted the situation to stop.  When tessie said "this is wrong", that was shirley acting out.

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The Lottery

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