Monday, June 9, 2008

Shirley Jackson's "The Lottery" (short story, non-genre, free): A lottery nobody wants to win!

A couple of weeks ago, John at SF Signal quoted a press release of something presided over by Ellen Datlow that described this story as "one of the most famous short stories in the English language". Since I'd never heard the name of either the author or the story, I assumed it must be a US thing. Fortunately, finding it was very easy - there are a lot of copies on the web.

While the story itself is indeed US-centric, it's fundamentally a human story; you should be able to see the familiar in it wherever you live.

Story summary.

Much of the story is description of a ceremonial gathering in a village. Peculiarities & behavior of this kid, that woman, that man - mostly familiar characters behaving in familiar ways in community settings.

Ceremony itself is an annual ritual. A lottery is drawn where all village residents participate.

"Winner" gets a beating from everyone! This winner's treatment sounded like a more violent version of the "bums"-method of wishing happy-birthday that was popular among men in some colleges in Bombay may be a decade back. But the winning & bizarre ending is only a tiny part of the story.

Fact sheet.

First published: The New Yorker, 28 June 1948.
Rating: A
Download full text.