I need help formulating a thesis statement to compare and contrast The Lottery and The Legend of Sleepy Hollow for a Marxist criticism.

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Since Marxist Criticism holds that literary activity and the "economic center" are interactive, the influence of the writer's socio-economic environment has much to do with the literary work. This effect is then reflected in the interactions of literary characters as their positions in society become determined by economic standards that, in turn, form a certain culture. 

With the literary work as reflective of the state of a culture, Shirley Jackson's "The Lottery" was written after the atrocities of World War II, a war in which Jackson perceived the Germans making a scapegoat of the Jews as the cause of their economic depression. In the rural setting of Jackson's story, the villagers superstitiously conduct a lottery which makes one person a scapegoat for any ills that may befall their community. This indoctrination that the villagers can rid their town of any lurking evil is conveyed in the saying repeated by Old Man Warner in response to objections against this tradition,

"'Lottery in June, corn be heavy soon'....First thing you know, we'd all be eating chickweed and acorns. There's always been a lottery...."

Further belief in the concept of making someone a scapegoat is evinced in Tessie's friend, Mrs. Delacroix's remark to her, "Be a good sport, Tessie,...All of us took the same chance."

In Washington Irving's tale, "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow," the narrative also reflects the state of a culture. In his story, Irving satirizes the foreigner Ichabod Crane, who wishes to exploit the established Dutch culture with what Marxist Criticism terms a conflict between the group consciousness and the individual. As the individual, Ichabod is somewhat alienated from the community, but he also attempts to exploit the women sexually. In an intriguing essay by Albert J. von Frank, entitled, ‘‘The Man That Corrupted Sleepy Hollow,’’ in Studies in American Fiction, von Frank argues that Irving's satire is aimed at Ichabod because he wishes to exploit the van Tassels and take Katrina to the uncouth wilderness of Kentucky. This group consciousness, represented by the van Tassels and Brom van Bunt, fights against Crane's licentious desires and frightens him away from the community, alienating him further.


In forming a thesis based upon Marxist Criticism, then, the aspects of alienation can be compared and contrasted as Tessie becomes alienated as the scapegoat in "The Lottery" and Ichabod Crane is clearly alienated from the Dutch culture of the community in "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow." by his own motives and by his "foreignness." In addition, there is the other aspect of the economic conditions determining the cultures in both stories.