Shirley Jackson’s “The Lottery” is a short story worth remembering. I won’t ruin the ending for you if you haven’t read it … but it’s quite frankly one of the most memorable and bizarre endings in literary history. It’s no wonder that Utne Reader has decided to revisit the publishing of “The Lottery” in The New Yorker in 1948.
I first read “The Lottery” in elementary school in a program called Junior Grade Books. I recall being bored by a lot of the stories we were required to read, but when we started “The Lottery” I felt an immediate attachment to it. I loved the way Jackson describes the heightened tension–but without letting the reader in on the big surprise. At the end, I was completely shocked as were the rest of the kids in my class.
Fast forward to nearly 15 years later. As a Peace Corps volunteer in Estonia, I taught English as a foreign language. My advanced class loved reading American and British literature and it was a good way to build their context clue reading skills. Therefore, I gave them “The Lottery” to read. And they loved it too. Only one student foresaw the ending while the others were left in the dark as I was reading it for the first time as a kid.
As Utne Reader reports, when “The Lottery” first came out, readers of The New Yorker were horrified and disgusted, even canceling subscriptions and flooding Jackson with hate mail. My, how times have changed. As a society we’ve gotten much darker. Is that a good thing?
Join us in celebrating “The Lottery” with our article entitled Shirley Jackson’s Outsider Perspective of Bennington, Vermont.