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Literary Analysis on Shirley Jackson’s “The Lottery” Essay

Shirley Jackson bewildered the world when her short story “The Lottery” was published in The New Yorker magazine. The piece got a great deal of negative reaction for its shocking and gruesome story. Readers didn’t know what or why Shirley Jackson wrote this piece. She said she wanted to show the story with a “graphic dramatization of the pointless violence and general inhumanity in their own lives.” She wrote a piece about a town that continues the tradition of killing one person each year for no reason other than tradition. The theme is to show how easily a village of friends and family can follow ways of others, even if it is cruel and unusual. In this short story, she displays the theme with the use of irony of setting, situational irony, and verbal irony. The detailed description in the short story helps to build up an unexpected ending. When the story begins to introduce the setting of the book it reads, “The morning of June 27th was clear and sunny, with the fresh warmth of a full summer day….”

The way the author writes it makes the readers feel like the story is going to take place in a happy environment and something good is going to happen. That may seem the case but as the reader continues to read, the story is actually talking about winning a death. This irony of setting illustrates the happy environment that they seem to live in, but that is not the case once the “winner” of the lottery is stoned to death. Readers may think Mrs. Hutchinson will not get chosen due to her positive attitude, but the story shows that is not the case at all. Mrs. Hutchinson acts like the drawing is not a big deal when she shows up late saying, “Clean forgot what day it was,” and “Wouldn’t have me leave m’dishes in the sink, now would you, Joe?.” She acts as if she wants to hurry up the process and get back to doing what she was doing. Mrs. Hutchinson has this attitude that she has nothing to worry about, yet it is her who ends up “winning” the lottery.

The situational irony shows that readers may think that the lottery is no big deal, but in fact it leads to a pointless death. The title of the short story is very misleading at first. The title “The Lottery” would make anyone assume the story is going to be about winning some money or some big prize. In the short story, Shirley Jackson wrote, “The lottery was conducted—as were the square dances, the teenage club, the Halloween program….” She makes the readers sense that the lottery is a normal thing and something good will come from it. That is the exact opposite of what the author is portraying. To win the lottery in the stories “village,” is to get beaten to death with stones by all the people in the community.

The verbal irony is when the author shows that winning the lottery is winning a death by your friends and family, compared to the readers who speculate that the lottery will be something good. Shirley Jackson shows the readers how easily friends and family turn on one another because of tradition. She states the irony of setting by stimulating a good, happy environment, but it turns out to be a dramatic day. With the verbal irony, no one actually wins something; someone ends up losing their life instead. In situational irony, the author shows how someone can blame others for their own mistakes. All of her different types of irony end up making “The Lottery” a very dramatic short story.

Works Cited
“Shirley Jackson.” Shirley Jackson and “The Lottery” N.p., n.d. Web. 04 June 2014.


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