First published in The New Yorker in 1948, “The Lottery” is a chilling short story by Shirley Jackson that has become a classic in American literature. Set in a small, seemingly idyllic town on a summer day, the narrative unfolds as the townspeople gather for an annual event known as “the lottery.” Jackson’s storytelling skillfully lulls the reader into a false sense of security, gradually revealing the ominous nature of this seemingly innocent tradition.

The plot revolves around the ritualistic selection of a “winner” through a seemingly random draw, leading to a shocking and gruesome climax. The setting, a quaint village with ordinary people engaging in a ritual that turns dark and horrifying, creates a stark contrast that intensifies the impact of the narrative. 

Written in the aftermath of World War II and during a period of social conformity in the United States, “The Lottery” critiques the blind acceptance of social norms and highlights the potential for cruelty within seemingly civilized communities. Jackson’s narrative drew much attention for its disturbing use of situational irony and violent ending. Despite this initial criticism from readers, “The Lottery” cemented Jackson’s position as a prolific writer of the horror genre.

Read the full story summary, an in-depth character analysis of Tessie Hutchinson, and explanations of important quotes from “The Lottery.”

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