Why would you recommend someone to read "The Lottery" by Shirley Jackson?

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estoverl's profile pic

estoverl | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Assistant Educator

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"The Lottery" by Shirley Jackson is a classic short story often assigned in high school or college. If one has not read it and is headed to college, it should be read as one of a group of classics with which college students should be familiar.

Beyond that, the story is an engaging one that should be read just for its thought provoking situations and societal connections. Interesting, in depth conversations are promoted by the subject of the story, which is another reason it is a worthy read.

Specifically, the story promotes thinking about individuality, free will and group dynamics. The storyline is simple and the text an easy read, yet the plot stirs strong emotions and conversations. In the story, a small, typical American town is about to have an annual event called "The Lottery" during which through drawings and elimination, one person is chosen to be stoned to death. Clearly some members of the town are uncomfortable with this, yet they go right along with the crowd, committing the crime of stoning to death an innocent woman seemingly because that's just the way the tradition works. The death supposedly brings good luck to the village or town in which the act took place.

Along with conversations about free will and group dynamics, the story also promotes thoughts about the value of rituals in small town America. When it was published, there was outcry and anger because it seemed to be a critical commentary on small town life.

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mwestwood's profile pic

mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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The blind adherence to tradition exhibited in "The Lottery" gives thought, hopefully, to readers about how dangerous it is to do something just because that has been the pattern. There are places to this day in the United States in which people perform some function in a rather inane manner, but "This is how we have been doing it for six generations, and we are not about to stop now. My Daddy did it this way" and so on.

In another example, politically, people tend to be sheep in their behavior. For instance, people who are in unions will vote as the union bosses tell them regardless of the fact that the candidate who supports the union may be completely against the beliefs of the person in other areas. Or people who have always voted a certain party will not change in their voting despite the fact that their beliefs in other things may not be in accord with the party lines now. 

In another vein, the innate sadism and pleasure in violence in humans is also depicted in "The Lottery"--certainly something to shock people into understanding the proclivity for cruel acts. That the children eagerly pile up stones in anticipation of their sadistic pleasure, and that Mrs. Delacroix picks up a rock she can barely carry shows her despicably violent character because she has only moments before talked with Tessie Hutchinson and then she is ready to drop a virtual boulder on her.

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