If you read the reviews of Jackson's story, you will find that the reactions to her work were varied: some negative and some positive.
In a critical overview it is noted,
Cleanth Brooks and Robert Penn Warren also suggested unease with the story's structure when they wrote in Understanding Fiction that Jackson ''has preferred to give no key to her parable but to leave its meaning to our inference."
Many authors (and even song writers) would prefer the work to speak for itself.
Critics surmised that the story was a "modern-day parable." It has been suggested that there is "potential for cruelty when the individual submits to the tyranny of the status quo."
One theme implies that acts of violence can take place anywhere, carried out by ordinary people. A frightening aspect to the story is the general acceptance of this "ritual," and how people can stand idly by and do nothing: 'if it does not affect me, then I won't put myself in harm's way to do anything about it.'
Jackson received letters questioning the meaning of this story until her death. It is a literary trademark that Jackson uses an even tone throughout a story to turn us dramatically around with an unexpected ending.
All research I have found indicates that Jackson, as a true artist, wanted the reader to take his or her own impressions away from the story, and let the story speak individually to each reader, without her telling people what to think: this is, after all, one of the themes of the story—knowing what is important to the individual and making decisions based on who we are and what we bring to the story (or to the circumstances at hand).