In Shirley Jackson’s “The Lottery”  how does the story use the theme “The randomness of persecution”

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Kristen Lentz | Middle School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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Shirley Jackson addresses the theme of the randomness of persecution in her short story, "The Lottery."  Like the Bible verse that says "the rain falls on the just and the injust" (Matthew 5:45), the lottery, although demented and wrong in every way conceivable, is at least impartial, giving everyone in the town the same blind chance.  It is the impartiality of the lottery, however, that might just be its cruelest feature, that innocent children and mothers, like Tessie Hutchinson, must be among its selection. 

Jackson condemns the lottery in this short story in the way that she chooses the hapless mother Tessie to be its victim; if the villagers had stoned a character who was presented throughout the story as a total jerk, the readers' reaction would not be quite so severe.  Because Tessie is such a non-threat and personable character, the readers see the evil of the wholesale lottery selection. 

Jackson's unhappy ending in "The Lottery" reaffirms the reality of life and the randomness of persecution.  Sometimes life is not fair, and as Tessie learns, there are no 'do-overs.'

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