Re: The Lottery

It was inevitable, I suppose, that the New Yorker Fiction podcast would cover “The Lottery,” by Shirley Jackson. I really didn’t know what to make of this story when I first read it in high school.

I remember thinking that it seemed far-fetched but that the point was that people could make the most horrible custom seem normal. I guess that still is the point. Maybe the question is what customs are we engaging in that seem normal but are really just as horrible as stoning a randomly selected victim.

On listening this time, I wonder how this story would be received if it were strictly a fantasy. After all, the lottery feels like a ritual that’s been going on for centuries. The ancient black box. The old man reciting a proverb implying that the lottery brings a rich harvest. But if you did that, the reader could think, Oh, those wacky ancients. We wouldn’t do that. Besides, much of the impact comes from portraying a recognizably American New England village matter of factly executing one of their citizens. The fact that there is no elder god who would reward their sacrifice makes it all the more horrible.

A pebble for your thoughts?


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