Type: Literary Analysis
Pages: 5 | Words: 1413
Reading Time: 6 Minutes

Shirley Jackson wrote “The Lottery” and “The Villager” with a number of themes in mind to describe the dangers of tradition and identity in the modern society. Through these two works of literature, Jackson describes the essence of tradition and culture in day-to-day activities in a proper description of each society tragic traditional endeavor. Then she goes further to describe the challenges and problems that are caused by traditions. Indeed, the two stories became one of the best literary works at the end of Second World War, at a time when survivors of the war were still recovering from the stress and encumbrances of the war. These two pieces of literature then became a better work in the time as they explained various themes and symbols that were involved and indicated the level and progress of the society. As claimed by the New York Times, Shirley Jackson indeed knew hearts of Americans in those troubling times. Thereby, this paper will summarize these beautiful pieces of literature and define their symbolism and themes.

The Villager

“The Villager” is the story written at the end of the Second World War in the year 1944. It is a story about a woman named Hilda Clarence aged 35 years. Hilda Clarence moved from a small town to New York with high hopes and ambitions that one day she would be a professional dancer. However, her ambitions had been curtained for a while because she had to work as stenographer. This work killed her spirits until she gave up all her hopes of becoming a dancer. But then, even with these disappointments, she prides and plays ups with her friends from home with a glamorous lifestyle with independence and personal accomplishments. In this regard, upon responding to an ad of an apartment with furniture, she arrives and finds the owner, Miss Roberts, not available with directions that she inspects the apartment and furniture. On her own discovery, the apartment looked dirty and kitchen could not compare to hers, but she stumbled upon a modern dance photography book and wondered if in any case the owner was a dancer. While in the house, Mr. Roberts called and Miss Hilda introduced herself. Mr. Roberts called Miss Roberts and asked Miss Hilda to inform Miss Roberts about his intention to move as they were going to Paris. Then, she looked through the book taking a pose on the book, which became uncomfortable after hanging up. While in the house, another buyer named Harris entered. who was also responding to the ad. He then assumed that she was Miss Roberts but Miss Hilda could not correct him. When he asked about her profession she lied that she was a singer and they were planning to move with her husband to Paris. But Harris did not like the furniture and left. Then Miss Hilda followed him after leaving a message to Miss Robert that she was not interested and that of Harris. She left with an ache from the ballet pose she tried earlier.

The Lottery

“The Lottery” is another accomplished story by Shirley Jackson. The lottery is a masterpiece for which other stories were written and presented. The setting of story is rather different from that of “The Villager”. The setting of “The Lottery” is set in a bit smaller town with an estimated population of around 300 people. Events take place in summer when all children are on summer break. On the 27th of June, town people and children are to gather for a lottery that begins at 10 in the early morning and eventually ends by lunchtime. During the lottery girls chatter as boys Harry, Dickie, and Harry come together and chat as they stand with their families. The lottery is to be conducted by Mr. Summers, who does not have children and has an unpleasant wife Mr. Summers. Mr. Summers brings and places a black box, which is older than the oldest men in town known as Old Man Warner. Then Mr. Summers stirs slips that are in the box. The lottery is so instrumental that before it is started households, members, and family heads are listed. All these details are prepared by Mr. Summers. In the lottery Mrs. Tess comes in late and stands besides her family with her husband Bill. Mr. Summers then accounts for the people supposed to be in the lottery and those absent. Then he begins the lottery by calling each family head, who is usually the husband, to come forward and take a slip from the worn black box while he narrates to Old Man Warner that a nearby villagers are thinking of giving up doing the lottery. Old Man Warner calls them a pack of young fools. After receiving the slip each family then opens the papers, and eventually Bill Hutchinson chooses a special slip leading his family to be separated. Mrs. Tess is not contented with that and accuses Mrs. Summers for not giving Bill enough time to chose his slip, hence she arranges the box again so that each member of Mrs. Tess family can choose from five slips. Each child of Mrs. Tess finds a blank paper with Tess remaining with the one with a dot. Therefore, villagers collect stones with Mrs. Delacroix selecting the largest stone wand stones Mrs. Tess Hutchinson to death.


The theme of the mini-anthology is tradition. Tradition is a common theme in the lottery. Indeed, the proceedings of the lottery in the village are the basic assumption that provides for the essentials of tradition in the society. The worn black box that is used to put slips is a symbol of culture whereby it has been a norm for a number of years and is older than the oldest person in the village. Therefore, tradition is based on culture of the village. Essentials of tradition is another matter that should be looked at as the effects of listing all families, especially the heads of families, and the process of the same people picking a slip is supposed to put the lives of the loved ones at risk. Hence, gender issues are depicted well in the story as husbands and head of families have to choose for their families. The tradition involves stoning someone to death every July using a lottery, a practice that seems to be horrible in the modern societies. Hence, we can see the implications of some traditions that form our societies. In “The Villager” tradition is not particularly spelt. However, with considerations of the character of Miss Hilda of cheating to his friends that she is accomplished and styled up could be the implication of successful traditions that require a person to make it in life. Nevertheless, apart from tradition, identity becomes a bigger issue and theme in “The Villager”. In the story, the characters show their unhappiness and dissatisfaction about their own lives by literary seeking new identities of their liking using rogue techniques like lying. Miss Clarence lies to her friends back home that she is an accomplished and styled up dancer when she is not to cover her identity. Indeed, the perception from the story is that by Miss Clarence lying to Harris about being the owner and lady of the apartment and that she was a singer planning to go to Paris, she believes that she can achieve a certain level of satisfaction. Hence, in summary, these characters attempt to lie to other in order to assume the identities their desire. In “The Lottery”, the community to continue its identity is willing to continue with their tradition, which make husband and children stone their own wife and mother to continue to be identified. When Mr. Summers tells Old Man Warner that the nearby village was contemplating to drop the tradition, he replies that they are a pack of young fools, which proves the importance and relevance of identity and tradition.

We can conclude that within two stories, Shirley Jackson wants to show and identify themes that affect modern human life. The lottery represented not only the theme of tradition, but also that of modern horror. Expectations of the reader is that it is just a normal lottery that will reward individual with a prize. but to the surprise of horror hence the ideology of conformity. Therefore, the two pieces of literature provide a puzzle of hidden identity of communities and individuals who seek to reach their satisfaction and unhappiness through either horror or rather lies to keep up with their appearances and culture.

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