In Shirley Jacksons “The Lottery” she does exactly that by portraying themes like the inhumanity of violence and the tendency people have to follow traditions even when they do not agree with them.
Written by the great Shirley Jackson, this fable exemplifies how delusion and illogical thinking led to the terrifying and morose ending of Tessie Hutchinson's existence.
However, this is not the case in Shirley Jackson’s short story, "The Lottery." Here, the characters in the story are not gambling for money, instead they are gambling for their life.
However, over the years, the "lottery" has lost any significant meaning and the villagers follow tradition without even knowing why the tradition exists.
It begins by introducing a village and its people on a "clear and sunny" morning, "with the fresh warmth of a full-summer day" (NA, 781), with people finishing their tasks in order to gather for an annual town lottery.
People really, really did not want to be reminded of the evil that lurked in the hearts of men...especially in a story that showed that evil triumphing over all-American family values. After all, WWII had just been completed. The good guys had won. But Shirley Jackon's story held up an upsetting mirror to the American Dream and showed us that, even though fascism had been vanquished, there was still more than enough terrifying madness to go around.
Luckily, enough people loved "The Lottery" that became one of the most widely-anthologized short stories of all time...and helped establish Jackson's position as one of the great American horror writers.
But Shirley Jackson thinks you're lying. She thinks you—and anyone and everyone—would race off that bridge if your community decided it was necessary. According to her, while individuals may be great, a group of people is whole 'nother animal.
Unsurprisingly, this story caused major controversy when it was first published. 's implicit critique of the brutality underlying the rituals and values of America's small towns outraged magazine readers, many of who petulantly cancelled their New Yorker subscriptions. (Check out the for more on the tale's publication history.)
The anonymous, generic village in which "The Lottery" is set, in addition to the vicious twist the story gives to a common American ritual, enhanced the contemporary reader's uneasy sense that the group violence in the story could be taking place anywhere...or everywhere. Remember, guys: this was 1948. The super-conservative 1950's were dawning. The was kicking off.
The relationship of Shirley Jackson and her family to the village was uneasily nuanced. She wrote the script for a neighborhood production at North Bennington Graded School, and her fictionalized memoir of family life in the village, (1952), remains a well-loved classic.
Yet her biographer, Judy Oppenheimer, describes a strained relationship between Shirley Jackson and the villagers of North Bennington. She writes that Shirley's children recall a drumbeat of anti-semitic comments directed at their father, Stanley Edgar Hyman. Ralph Ellison, a regular visitor to the Hyman household in the 1950s, described tense moments of interaction for a black man in a wholly white village. The Hymans engaged in the rituals of Little League yet endured swastikas soaped on their windows.
Shirley Jackson's biographer concludes that despite the difficulties, Shirley most appreciated the villagers' respect for individual privacy. The biography quotes Shirley's son, Barry Hyman:
An animal that eats its own.
"The Lottery" is a story of a small town basically devouring a member of its own community. And it's one of the most horrifying texts you'll ever encounter.
Like so many great horror stories, this one has a load of social commentary. "The Lottery" is like the world's creepiest public service announcement against peer pressure. It's similar to those after school specials that warn against drinking beer or disobeying your parents—except Jackson is warning against unthinkingly following along with a group.
But we want to be clear: "The Lottery" isn't about short-lived, peer pressure-fueled mass hysteria like the . No, this is about a regular, established community ritual. Everyone in this sleepy Vermont town simply accepts the fact that, every once in a while, some neighbor or other will be brutally killed via blunt trauma.
However upon a closer look, it seems as if “family friendly” could be the wrong term to use to describe the lottery due to the nature of what takes place during this tradition.