What issues does Shirley Jackson raise in "The Lottery?"

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

I think that one of the most profound and intense issues that comes out of the short story is how the notion of the "banality of evil" is approached.  There is a desensitizing effect to the lottery in the small town that strikes the reader as shocking.  The question as to why no one speaks out against such an inhumane practice is what the reader is left to assess.  Yet, the most profound implications are not in the story.  When the reader has to gauge what happened in the story, the most logical consequence is to introspectively examine the role of the reader in the narrative.  What would be done if we were Tessie in a similar situation?  What would be done if we were to encounter an Old Man Warner in a parallel predicament?  Do we possess the courage to speak out against something we know is wrong when we see it or would be remain silent, being more comfortable in progressing with the group?  These are issues that are raised in the short story.  They strike at the very essence of who we are, in what we believe, and how we approach the presence of evil, no matter how banal it may be, in our own lives.  Jackson creates a story that operates more as a looking glass, more of a mirror, into our own sense of identity as much as we assess what is happening in the story.

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adina1188's profile pic

adina1188 | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Adjunct Educator

Posted on

Some believe Jackson was delving into the question of the Holocaust. She wanted to know how the people of Poland, Germany and other countries could know what was going on in the next town, or in their own, and not lift a finger to help. How could humans sink to a level where they could watch woman, children, or the elderly, those who society have been taught to protect, and do nothing. Perhaps because humans are inherently selfish when it comes to their safety. Perhaps humans are truly cowards at heart.

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