Saturday, June 22, 2013

"The Lottery"

"The Lottery" 
from The Lottery and Other Stories, by Shirley Jackson

It's her most famous work, and I've read it before, of course.  I'm not sure when was the first time... Sometime in school, I'd say.  It had been a while since the last time I read it, but obviously I knew what was coming, so there seems to be less to say about it.

Things that struck me on this reading:

-- The date.  June 27th.  I wondered if there was any significance in that, but nothing comes to mind except that it's near summer solstice.  Midsummer would make sense for a ritual sacrifice linked to agriculture-- as seems to be the case in this story.  ("Lottery in June, corn be heavy soon", for example.)  But why make it a few days later?  

--  "In some towns there were so many people that the lottery took two days and had to be started on June 26th..."   I'd forgotten that part of the story.  So it's not just this town that has a lottery (though it's mentioned in passing that some towns are dropping the practice).

--  The boys stuffing their pockets with stones-- and making and guarding piles of rocks.  I hadn't remembered that little nugget of foreshadowing!

--  How awful that Tessie Hutchinson wants her married daughter (and son-in-law) to risk drawing "the mark" just to increase her own chance of survival!  Talk about harsh!  Of course, if you've lived your whole life in a community that sacrifices one of its members every year (and acts like its a perfectly normal thing to do)... I guess you're bound to turn out a little skewed. (g)

--  "'It's not the way it used to be,' Old Man Warner said clearly. 'People ain't the way they used to be.'" 

And with that, I've finished reading this book! 
If you start this collection of short stories expecting a series of tales just like "The Lottery", you're liable to be disappointed.  Most of the stories lack that shocking twist-end moment, but by and large, they're still good reading.