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Summary on The Lottery by Shirley Jackson

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Facts about Shirley Jackson's The Lottery:

  1. Originally published in June of 1948
  2. First published as a short story in The New Yorker Magazine
  3. Has recently had movies and feature length plays using Jackson's story line as a basis for current fiction

In “The Lottery,” author Shirley Jackson describes just a few moments of a single day in June in a small town of only a few hundred people. Children gather stones and the adults comment on everyday occurrences, like the weather and the work done for the upcoming planting season. An ominous black box is placed on a stool in the center of town as everyone watches; the papers inside are shuffled and moved about. After the required motions are done, the lottery is opened by Mr. Summers, who the reader learns has no wife or children to speak of.

The Lottery

After a quick scan to ensure all the villagers were present, notes are made about who is drawing. Husbands are primarily responsible, but, in the absence of a husband, it can be done by a wife or a son who is of appropriate age. One by one, families’ names are called, and the appropriate representative removes a folded slip of paper from the box. After everyone has selected, the papers are opened simultaneously, and it is learned that Bill Hutchinson has selected the piece with the symbolic mark. His wife immediately begins protesting, but the townsfolk will have none of it.

For the second stage of the lottery, each member of the family draws a piece of paper, from the older father to the youngest child, described as not old enough to understand that he is to take just one piece of paper. Tessie, the wife who protested her husband’s selection, is revealed to be holding the paper with the black dot on it, a sign that she is the one to be sacrificed. Everyone takes a stone, even little Davy, her son. Villagers begin throwing the rocks almost immediately, and the story closes with Mrs. Hutchinson protesting and town elders encouraging everyone to play their role in the annual ritual.

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