The celebrated hunter Sanger Rainsford, while aboard a yacht cruising in the Caribbean, falls into the sea. While swimming desperately for shore, he hears the anguished cries of an animal being hunted; it is an animal he does not recognize. Rainsford makes it to land and after sleeping on the beach, he begins to look for people on the island. He finds evidence of the hunt he overheard and wonders, upon finding empty cartridges, why anyone would use a small gun to hunt what was, according to the evidence, obviously a large animal. Rainsford then follows the hunter’s footprints to the solitary house on the island.
The mansion looms above him like something out of a Gothic novel and inside is a similarly Gothic character as well: Ivan, a gigantic, mute man. Ivan is about to shoot Rainsford when the entry of another man stops him. The second man, General Zaroff, is far more civilized looking than Ivan and has exquisite manners. He apologizes for Ivan and gives . . . Read More
Although Shirley Jackson wrote many books, children’s stories and humorous pieces, she is most remembered for her story “The Lottery.” In “The Lottery” Jackson portrays the average citizens of an average village taking part in an annual sacrifice of one of their own residents. When the story was published in the New Yorker magazine in 1948, reader response was tremendous. People were horrified by the story and wrote to express their disgust that a tale containing a pointless, arbitrary, violent sacrifice had been allowed to be published. Some also called to see where the town was so that they could go and watch the lottery. It is this last behavior, the need to feel a part of the gruesomeness that exists in American society, that Jackson so skillfully depicts in “The Lottery.”
Take for instance the recent fascination with television talk shows. On these programs we learn more than we want to about dysfunctional families, . . . Read More
“The Lottery” was published in 1948, shortly after the end of World War II, but Jackson set the story in an indeterminate time and place. Many critics, however, have maintained that Jackson modeled the village after North Bennington, Vermont, where she and her husband lived after their marriage in 1940. After the story was published, some of Jackson’s friends and acquaintances also suggested that many of its characters were modeled after people who lived in North Bennington. Jackson herself, who throughout her life said little about the meaning behind or the circumstances surrounding the story, noted: “I hoped by setting a particularly brutal ancient rite in the present and in my own village, to shock the story’s readers with a graphic dramatization of the pointless violence and general humanity in their own lives.”
Some critics have suggested that “The Lottery” is representative of the social, political, and cultural . . . Read More
Jackson establishes the setting of “The Lottery” at the beginning of the story. It takes place on the morning of June 27th, a sunny and pleasant summer day, in the village square of a town of about three hundred people. The setting is described as tranquil and peaceful, with children playing and adults talking about everyday concerns. This seemingly normal and happy setting contrasts greatly with the brutal reality of the lottery. Few clues are given to a specific time and place in the story, a technique used to emphasize the fact that such brutality can take place in any time or in any place.
Jackson’s narrative technique, the way she recounts the events in the story, is often described as detached and objective. Told from a third-person point of view, the narrator is not a participant in the story. The objective tone of the narrative, meaning the story is . . . Read More
“The Lottery” focuses on Tessie Hutchinson, a woman who is stoned to death by members of her village.
Violence and Cruelty
Violence is a major theme in “The Lottery.” While the stoning is a cruel and brutal act, Jackson enhances its emotional impact by setting the story in a seemingly civilized and peaceful society. This suggests that horrifying acts of violence can take place anywhere at anytime, and they can be committed by the most ordinary people. Jackson also addresses the psychology behind mass cruelty by presenting a community whose citizens refuse to stand as individuals and oppose the lottery and who instead unquestioningly take part in the killing of an innocent and accepted member of their village with no apparent grief or remorse.
Custom and Tradition
Another theme of “The Lottery” concerns the blind following of tradition and the . . . Read More
Mr. Adams is one of the men of the village. While he seems to be one of the few who questions the lottery when he mentions that another village is thinking about giving up the ritual, he stands at the front of the crowd when the stoning of Tessie begins.
Along with Tessie Hutchinson, Mrs. Adams seems to be one of the few women of the village who questions the lottery. She tells Old Man Warner that “some places have already quit lotteries.”
An acquaintance of Tessie Hutchinson’s, Mrs. Delacroix is the first person Tessie speaks to when she arrives late at the lottery. When Tessie protests the method of drawing, it is Mrs. Delacroix who says, “Be a good sport, Tessie.” Mrs. Delacroix, however, is among the most active participants when the stoning begins, grabbing a stone so heavy she cannot lift it. Some . . . Read More
“The Lottery” by Shirley Jackson opens on a warm June day in a town of about 300 people and describes an annual event in the town, a tradition that is apparently widespread among surrounding villages as well. Children arrive in the town square first and engage in “boisterous play.” Some of the boys create a “great pile of stones in one corner of the square.”
When the men of the village arrive they stand away from the stones, joke quietly, and smile instead of laugh. The women arrive next. As they join their husbands, they call to their children. One mother’s voice carries no weight, and it is her husband that commands Bobby Martin’s attention.
The event for which they gather is a lottery conducted by Mr. Summers, a neatly dressed, jovial business man with a wife but no children. Although many traditional customs associated with the lottery seemed to have been lost over time, Mr. Summers still has “a . . . Read More
Ralph Ellison struggled through much of his career with his role as a black American writer. Alternately patronized and exalted in his early career, by the 1960s the militant tone of the black intellectual world deemed him irrelevant. Activists of the civil-rights movement preferred the militancy and anger of works like Black Boy, (written by Richard Wright, one of Ellison’s mentors) over Ellison’s moderate stance. Ellison never felt comfortable with what he saw as the limitations of the genre of “Negro literature.” “I am a human being, and not just the black successor to Richard Wright,” he wrote, “and there are ways of celebrating my experience more complex than terms like ‘protest’ can suggest.”
Ellison was educated in the two most important “schools” for black intellectuals and artists of the time. He attended Alabama’s Tuskegee Institute, the college founded by Booker T. Washington; and . . . Read More
Race in the South
Ralph Ellison was born in Oklahoma City, and during his childhood he encountered opposition from the city’s white establishment. His mother was persecuted for her political activities on behalf of the Socialist Party. Oklahoma’s governor during Ellison’s early years was the white supremacist “Alfalfa Bill” Murray. Murray established a very unfriendly atmosphere for blacks in Oklahoma, and the state saw at least one serious race riot during that period. Although Oklahoma is not a part of the South proper and was still Indian territory during the Civil War, the state has absorbed a Southern cultural heritage from its neighbors Texas and Arkansas. Part of this heritage included Jim Crow laws, the system of de jure and de facto (meaning unwritten but enforced) racial segregation laws that persisted until the 1960s.
Ellison believed an effort was made by the state to ensure that black . . . Read More
Narration and Point of View
“King of the Bingo Game” utilizes a third-person narrator who is inside the consciousness of the Bingo King. The narrator relates the Bingo King’s thoughts and his memories. At first, the narration is relentlessly realistic, and almost naturalistic in its depiction of the mind of a poor, downtrodden, yet still-hopeful man. The introduction of his sick wife into the narrative gives the story a melodramatic tone.
However, as the story continues, the realism lessens and the narration approximates the consciousness of the Bingo King, becoming a mouthpiece for him as he is taken over by the power of the bingo wheel. “This is God! This is the really truly God!” the narrator tells us. “He was reborn. For as long as he pressed the button he was The-man-who-pressed-the-button-who-held-the-prize-who-was-the-King-of-Bingo.” But as the story ends, the narrative voice recedes, . . . Read More