Essay, Research Paper: Lottery By Shirley Jackson

Literature: Edgar Allan Poe

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Gothic is defined as “a style of fiction that emphasizes the grotesque and the
mysterious.” Similar to the works of Edgar Allan Poe, many of Shirley
Jackson’s stories are considered “gothic” fiction. One such story is
“The Lottery” which was first published in 1948. This story focuses on a
very grim day in the life of one of its citizens. It is a day in which one of
its citizens will undergo a cruel and torturous death. The unfortunate citizen
will die at the hands of his or her fellow citizens. In this short story,
Shirley Jackson creates a gothic environment by emphasizing the grotesque and
the mysterious; however, Jackson also makes the story seem realistic and
believable by presenting a governed town with a familiar setting. Jackson uses
many elements to help create a very gothic short story. For example, the reader
is unaware of what “the winner” of the lottery will receive until the end of
the story. Because the fate of Mrs. Hutchinson, “the winner,” is kept a
mystery for most of the story, readers are enticed to view this piece of
literature as gothic fiction. Another element that makes this short story appear
to be gothic is the bizarre behavior of its citizens. The citizens of this small
village do not empathize with Mrs. Hutchinson. In fact, most of the citizens are
excited about stoning Tessie Hutchinson to her death. Although the excitement of
the citizens is disturbing, there is one scene in particular that is the most
outlandish. It is when all the citizens are rushing to find stones to throw at
Mrs. Hutchinson. At this point in the story, Shirley Jackson writes, “The
children had stones Page - 2 already, and someone gave little Davy Hutchinson a
few pebbles.” It is town of incongruousness. It is a town of absurdity. It is
a town of grotesqueness and mystery. Although this short story is viewed as
gothic fiction, Jackson adds many elements to her story to make it seem
realistic and believable. One such element is the order in the village. While,
in many stories, anarchy seems to be coherent with gothic fiction, government is
apparent in this short story. Mr. Summers regulates over the lottery with ease.
Another element that helps to create a realistic short story is the setting.
Jackson creates a village that is very close to that of many other small towns.
Like other small towns, the village has a coal company, grocery store, and post
office. Usually, readers associate gothic fiction to barbarous savages, and this
story consists of a governed and civilized village. Because of this, the story
seems realistic and believable. Can a civilized village be so uncivilized?
Shirley Jackson’s, “The Lottery,” causes the reader to wonder this very
question. The behavior of the “civilized” village citizens seems to be
ridiculous, and yet, at the same time, the story is believable. By emphasizing
the grotesque and mysterious, Jackson’s story is viewed as gothic fiction, and
by creating an ordinary civilized village, the story seems realistic to the
reader.
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