Filed under: short stories, Story Sundays | Tags: literature, reading, shirley jackson, short stories, story sundays, the lottery
Story Sundays is a weekly feature at Fat Books & Thin Women. Each Sunday I write about a short story available online. If you read the story, please add your thoughts in the comments!
Any education in American short fiction would be incomplete without a reading of Shirley Jackson’s “The Lottery,” first published in The New Yorker in 1948.
Jackson’s story takes place over an hour or two in a small town of 300 people, gathered for the annual lottery. Jackson doesn’t overwhelm the reader with description or background; what we can gather from the story is that the lottery is an annual tradition linked in people’s minds to the quality of the year’s crops. Some towns have recently discontinued their own lotteries, but with a sense of tradition and the inevitable, the lottery continues in the town of Jackson’s story.
Years ago, when I first read “The Lottery”, I was frustrated by this lack of background information. I didn’t like the story, and didn’t get what all the fuss was about. On rereads, though, the slow build to the inevitable end of the story is almost excruciating, heightened because Jackson (like Carol Emshwiller, author of the story I wrote about last Sunday) knows when to give more detail and when to leave it to the reader.
You can read “The Lottery” in a scanned edition of the 1948 New Yorker. If that doesn’t work, there is a typo-riddled version available here.