The Lottery

This study guide will help you analyse the short story “The Lottery” by Shirley Jackson. You can also find a summary of the text, as well as inspiration for interpreting it.

Presentation of the text

Title: “The Lottery” (1948)
Author: Shirley Hardie Jackson
Genre: Short story

Shirley Jackson (1919-1965) was an American writer of short stories and novels. She also published two memoirs. Jackson is known especially for her works of mystery and horror. Jackson’s 1959 novel “The Haunting of Hill House” is widely considered one of the best horror novels ever written. 

The short story “The Lottery” first appeared in The New Yorker magazine in June 1948. Its publication received unexpected attention from the readership. The magazine reportedly received a large amount of phone calls and letters from readers who demanded the story to be explained. Others cancelled their subscription to The New Yorker or sent hate mail to both the magazine and the writer.


Below, you can read an excerpt from our study guide:


The title of Shirley Jackson's "The Lottery" is deliberately misleading, as most readers would expect winning a lottery to be a good thing, and thus might expect an uplifting story of fortune and success. The title is also somewhat vague and mysterious, as it does not reveal anything about the specific kind of lottery that the story will focus on, and thus sparks curiosity among readers.

However, the irony of the title swiftly becomes clear as the story progresses, and we get more and more hints that the particular village lottery that the story revolves around is not a contest one would want to win. At the end of the story, all doubt is gone, as it is revealed that the 'winner' is to be stoned to death by the other villagers as part of an obscure and brutal tradition whose exact origins are unclear to the villagers themselves. 

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The Lottery

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  • 6/6/2022