illustrated portrait of American author Shirley Jackson

Shirley Jackson

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Student Question

Did Shirley Jackson practice witchcraft?

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Although Shirley Jackson (1916-1965), author of the acclaimed short story, "The Lottery," had personal demons of her own, there is no evidence that she worshipped any in real life. Her husband, critic Stanley Hyman, wrote that his wife's story was not based on a personal knowledge of such things.

... the darker aspects of Jackson's works were not, as some critics claimed, the product of "personal, even neurotic, fantasies," but that Jackson intended, as "a sensitive and faithful anatomy of our times, fitting symbols for our distressing world of the concentration camp and the Bomb," to mirror humanity's Cold War-era fears. 

Shirley did have her share of personal and health problems. When she died of a heart attack at the relatively early age of 48, she was "overweight and a heavy smoker." She also suffered from "various neuroses and psychosomatic illnessess."

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